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Giving Birth Through the Ages

Assuming that those Contraceptives Through the Ages did not exactly work for you (darn that Coca-Cola douche), it’s time to check out what the whole delivery process entailed. The Middle Ages were not so pleasant – if the midwife tried to use any type of pain relief she was put to death immediately.  Up until the late 1800s doctors would go straight from autopsies to deliveries (and they wonder why the infant mortality rate was so high). By the early 20th century doctors had the brilliant idea to send women into ‘Twilight Sleep’ so they couldn’t remember a single thing about the life-changing miracle of childbirth.

See how things have changed in Giving Birth Through the Ages…

  • Giving Birth Through the Ages 1 of 26
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    Click through to see them all...

  • Men Could Touch But Not Look 2 of 26
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    In the Victorian era male doctors were allowed to help deliver, but they could not look at you while they did it.
    Find out more at The Hypnobirthing Center
    Photo via Loyno.

  • Midwives and Witchery 3 of 26
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    During the medieval times midwives had to make an oath to the bishop that they would not use magic. If they believed they were using magic they would be killed.
    Find out more at The Hypnobirthing Center
    Photo via Mental Floss.

  • R & R 4 of 26
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    During the Medieval times, women were told to stay in bed up to 40 days after delivery. After that they could be reinitiated into society.
    Find out more at The Hypnobirthing Center
    Photo via Mental Floss.

  • Boy or Girl? 5 of 26
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    It was believed the sex of the baby would show the dominant partner in the relationship.
    Find out more at The Hypnobirthing Centre
    Photo via Jobs Papa.

  • Snakesin for Childbirth 6 of 26
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    If you were having a rough time delivering, tie snakeskin around your hips.
    Find out more at The Hypnobirthing Centre
    Photo via Always Time for Tea.

  • Cheese Carvings 7 of 26
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    Way back when, they believed you could ease the pain by eating cheese with magic words carved into it.
    Find out more at The Hypnobirthing Centre
    Photo via Sweet Station.

  • Nursing Off Another 8 of 26
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    If the delivery is going too slow it was said to drink the milk of another woman.
    Find out more at The Hypnobirthing Centre
    Photo via Health Made Easy.

  • Eve’s Curse 9 of 26
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    It was believed in the 15th century that women must suffer through childbirth because it was all part of Eve's curse.
    Find out more at Loyno
    Photo via History and Women.

  • Powdered Sow Dung 10 of 26
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    Back in Ancient Rome, drinking powdered sow dung was considered a way to relieve pain.
    Find out more at Sentinel Source
    Photo via Show Pig.

  • Men and Pain 11 of 26
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    In some cultures during the 1400-1600s men would self-inflict pain to suffer with the woman.
    Find out more at Isis
    Photo via Jane Austen.

  • Bring on the Choloroform 12 of 26
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    In the late Victorian era, it was considered a standard practice to use chloroform during childbirth, yikes!
    Find out more at Loyno
    Photo via General Anaesthesia.

  • No Pain, No Gain 13 of 26
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    In the early Victorian ages, women were told that wincing in pain was considered cowardly.
    Find out more at Isis
    Photo via Live Auctioneers.

  • Twilight Sleep 14 of 26
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    In the early 20th century something called 'twilight sleep' kicked in. This was a mix of drugs that would cause the mother to have no recollection of the actual birth. The same cocktail was later used by the military as 'truth serum.'
    Find out more at Isis
    Photo via Mental Floss.

  • Fathers Join the Fun 15 of 26
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    It wasn't until about the 1970s that men were allowed into the room during childbirth in Western society.
    Find out more at Sentinel Source
    Photo via Women Health.

  • Hello Epudiral 16 of 26
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    About the same time the 'twilight sleep' phases out, the epidural comes right in which was about the early 1950s.
    Find out more at Science and Sensibility
    Photo via Labor Aid.

  • Barber-Surgeon-Doctor 17 of 26
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    During the Renaissance, the barber was also the one to deliver your baby.
    Find out more at Birthologie
    Photo via BBC.

  • Opening the Womb 18 of 26
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    During the Medieval Ages, if a mother was having trouble pushing the baby out, people in other rooms would begin opening doors, cupboards, and shooting arrows in the sky as a way to symbolize the womb opening.
    Find out more at History Medieval Renaissance
    Photo via Birth of the Virgin.

  • From Autopsies to Deliveries 19 of 26
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    In the early 1880s doctors did not find a correlation between washing hands and sanitation, so they would go from autopsies to delivers in a number of minutes.
    Find out more at Birthologie
    Photo via Finding Dulcinea.

  • Testing the Epidural 20 of 26
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    In order to try out the modern day epidural, a german doctor named August Bier first tried injecting cocaine into his assistant's spinal cord.
    Find out more at Birthologie
    Photo via Baby Birth.

  • No Knots 21 of 26
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    In Ancient Greece when a woman went into labor midwives would check the entire room for knots because they were considered a bad omen.
    Find out more at Parents
    Photo via ABC.

  • Sneezing Powders 22 of 26
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    In France during the 1700s they would give a woman in labor sneezing powder to help push things right along.
    Find out more at Telegraph
    Photo via Baby Med.

  • Screaming in Sympathy 23 of 26
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    The Zuni Indians would scream out in pain with the laboring mother as a sign of sympathy.
    Find out more at Parents
    Photo via Snoww Owl.

  • Birthing Chair 24 of 26
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    During the Middle Ages women were advised to use a birthing chair to have their baby instead of laying down.

    Find out more at History Medieval Renaissance.
    Photo via A Vindication of the Rights of Mary.

  • A Dose of Honey 25 of 26
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    To heighten a baby's appetite right after birth, women in the Middle Ages would put a bit of honey in the baby's mouth.
    Find out more at History Medieval Renaissance.
    Photo via Fitness Everywhere.

  • Polar Eskimo and Placentas 26 of 26
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    In the 1920s polar eskimos would wrap the placenta up in animal skins and leave it outside for animals to eat.
    Find out more at Parents
    Photo via Windows 2 Universe.

Jaime Morrison Curtis is author of the bestselling book Prudent Advice: Lessons for My Baby Daughter (A Life List for Every Woman), follow up fill-in journal My Prudent Advice, and founding co-editor at Pretty Prudent, the premier design and lifestyle blog providing inspiration and instruction to help anyone create beautiful things, food, and experiences for their friends and family.

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