Monday, November 28, 2011

Pregnancy & Birth through History

I should imagine any woman reading my blog title is probably crossing their legs right at this moment. Well, after my research I wouldn't blame you if you did. Today's blog is on pregnancy and childbirth through history. A fitting post since I recently gave birth to my third child, a daughter, Lily.

For me, this labour was easy, painful yes, but easy and everything went well. Having said that, should I have had my first child, Samuel a hundred years ago, both of us would have died without question. Thank God for modern medicine.

So without further ado, we head back to... The Middle Ages

A time when women and the male physicians were unknowledgeable with the female body and it's reproductive organs. It was thought that the male semen was all that it took to create a baby and us poor females were simply the oven in which it baked. In a time where medicine was practiced with bloodletting, prayer and an assortment of herbs and spices it was any wonder many women died in pregnancy and childbirth during this time.


A medieval woman giving birth


A medieval birthing chair

Seventeenth Century
Not a lot had changed by this time. Women were still predominately the carers in all households and sat in on births during this time. Mother's gave birth in a room with closed windows, curtains drawn and roaring fires. Not the most comfortable way to have a baby if you were to go into labour in the middle of summer.

Father's were kept away and women were pushed to give birth in the sitting or squatting position. Superstitions were rife during this time, and if the labour didn't progress quickly during the pushing phase, family members were asked to open cupboard doors or to untie knots; symbolic of the opening of the womb. Oh dear...

When the baby was born they were swaddled in linen strips and placed in a dark, quiet corner, as they believed bright light was detrimental to the baby's sight. Again, obstructed labour caused many women to die during birth and of course, there was still no anaesthesia to relieve the pain. Ouch.

17th century birth

Nineteenth Century

By this time in history men were participating in births. Male doctors assisted in labour and women were often asked to lay on their left sides 'Sims position' with their knees bent up. This was so the Doctor and patient could not see each other and the women's 'dignity' was preserved. Births were still predominately at home.

By the mid 1800's chloroform was invented and forceps were used more often during birth. The baby was breastfed either by a wet nurse or mother, dependant if the mother wished to or not.

A 19th century birth


Late 19th century 'Sims Position'

We really should take our hats off to the women of the past and what they endured to enable us all to live today. As much as I love to sweep my readers into a time long gone and fill their minds with tales of love and happily ever afters, there was another side of marriage that all our heroines endured. Pregnancy and birth was a dangerous and painful undertaking and not something to be taken lightly. I salute you all.

Monday, November 21, 2011


As my Regency intrigue novella, LOVE AND WAR is now priced at 0.99c on, I thought I’d share some of the romance of the Regency.
The Fashions
Regency gowns were influenced by the Napoleonic era, and were Classical in style. By 1816 waists were at their highest under the bust, gradually dropping until the 1830s, when they took on the style of the Victorian era, as sleeves and skirts became fuller.
Opposite: Early 19th Century silk spencers. 1820s  Dress of white silk striped with blue having a chiné effect. A velvet dress of soft violet. 1830s dress of red moire.

The Houses 
Grovelands Prior, Southgate, North London was built in 1797-8 by John Nash who drew inspiration from the Palladian style of Classical architecture in the Renaissance era. 
During the 16th Century, Venetian architect, Andrea Palladio was most influenced by the Ancient Greek and Roman’s classical temple architecture. In 17th Century Europe, Palladio's interpretation of this classical architecture was adapted as the style known as Palladianism. It continued to develop until the end of the 18th century. The style influenced many of the great houses of Britain. Its Doric columns, pediments, symmetry and proportions are clearly evident in the design of many modern buildings today.

Inigo Jones was the designer of the Queen’s House, Greenwich, begun in 1616, the first English Palladian house.
The Food
The dinner was as well dressed as any I ever saw. The venison was roasted to a turn--and everybody said they never saw so fat a haunch. The soup was fifty times better than what we had at the Lucases' last week; and even Mr Darcy acknowledged, that the partridges were remarkably well done; and I suppose he has two or three French cooks at least. And, my dear Jane, I never saw you look in greater beauty. Mrs Long said so too, for I asked her whether you did not. -Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice
Regency Etiquette
The Mirror of Graces (1811) By A Lady of Distinction
The remedy for Tooth-ache
In two drachms of recified spirits of wine dissolve one drachm of camphire, five grains of prepared opium, and ten drops of oil of box; mix them well, and keep it well corked for use. Four or five drops on cotton to be put into the tooth; or six or seven drops to be put into the ear. Should the patient not feel easier in a quarter of an hour, the same may be repeated. It has never failed on the second application.
On Deportment
‘The awkward, reserved air of the early part of the last century has given way, not to grace and frankness, but to an unblushing impudence, which is the very assassin of female virtue and connubial behavior.’
Carriage and Demeanour
‘…her manners must bear due affinity with her figure, and her deportment with her rank. The youthful and delicate shaped girl is allowed a gaiety of air which would ill-become a woman of mature years and larger proportions; but at all times of life; when the figure is slender, with a swanlike neck, and the motions are naturally swaying for that girl or that woman to affect what is called a majestic air, would be as unavailing as absurd.’
Some sage advice for surviving crowded balls and soirées.
The person, when overheated, should always be allowed to cool gradually, and of itself, without any more violent assistant than perhaps the gentle undulation of the neighbouring air by a fan. Streams of wind from opened doors and windows or what is called a thorough air, are all bad and highly dangerous applications. Excessive heat, as well as excessive cold, is apt to cause distempers of the skin.

Maggi Andersen
Selena couldn't accuse him of paying her Spanish coin! Gyles Devereux made it clear he had no wish to marry at all but was constrained by his circumstances. She could not be expected to keep refusing Lord Devereux, she thought crossly. She was only flesh and blood after all. What woman on earth could resist the pleas of a man such as Devereux?  
Masterpieces of Women’s Costume of the 18th and 19th Centuries. Dover Publications Inc.
Georgian House Style Ingrid Cranfield David & Charles Ltd. 1997
Louis Hellman Architecture for Beginners 1986.
The Mirror of Graces (1811) By A Lady of Distinction
Images from Wikipedia