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
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
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.
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