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Childbirth: Images Spanning Thousands of Years

By Monica Bielanko |

Whatever position gets the job done, I say.

A year ago my husband gifted me with Randi Hutter Epstein’s book Get Me Out: A History of Childbirth From the Garden of Eden to the Sperm Bank.

It is an excellent read for myriad reasons.  Myriad, I say!  Doesn’t the phrase “myriad reasons” make me sound a little bit smart?  I think it does.  That’s why I employed it when describing Epstein’s book.

Get Me Out runs the gamut of pregnancy, exploring the medical and cultural history of pregnancy and childbirth, from folk remedies and old wives’ tales to ultrasound images and fertility drugs.

It was so mind-altering reading it got me to googling images relating to sections of the book and I was amazed at what I discovered.  From ancient times to now, whether carved into rock or snapped by a camera, images of childbirth are absolutely fascinating.

As you click through the following images, note the different birthing positions, and ask yourself why today women generally give birth lying down in a bed?

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Childbirth:  Images Spanning Thousands of Years

Ladies and Gentlemen, Childbirth.

Women have endured unspeakable horrors to arrive at today’s standards for childbirth.

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About Monica Bielanko


Monica Bielanko

Monica Bielanko was raised on the wild frontier of late 1970's Utah. She is a recovering Mormon who married the guitar player of an unknown band. She's been married to her Babble Voices writing partner, Serge Bielanko, for the past nine years. Her personal blog, The Girl Who was in the top ten of last year's Top 50 list. Read bio and latest posts → Read Monica's latest posts →

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7 thoughts on “Childbirth: Images Spanning Thousands of Years

  1. Taz says:

    awesome post!!

  2. Jill Arnold (The Unnecesarean) says:

    Love it, Monica!

  3. Emily says:

    These are awesome, my only issue was in photo 16 “scary times” it shows a Middle Ages print, describing birth in the Middle Ages, and yet says eighteenth century? Middle Ages in Europe were from aprox. 5th-15th centuries :-)

  4. Linda Bevier-Vian says:

    I love this. I want the book now. I love babies, birth etc…. I have attended 6 not counting my son. I was put to sleep after 24 hours of labor & they used forceps to pull him put. I was 17 1/2. I did not know much at that time. Things have changed in the last 42 years.

  5. Mandy says:

    I enjoyed this post, except for one thing. The math in the 17th and 18th century post doesn’t add up. The risks of dying in childbirth are not cumulative. If 10% of childbirths end in death, the woman has a 10% chance of death for each birth. Using a binomial distribution trial, a woman’s chance of dying in childbirth over her lifetime is 35.4% if she has six childbirths, 32.8% for five childbirths. Still very high, of course, but nowhere near 60%.

  6. Jespren says:

    These are awesome but in addition to the above mentioned, the picture titled “this was fashionable, at one point”, I actually a relatively well know magazine ad from the early 1900′s about how your doctor could cure all sorts of female maladies and hysterias by “below the waist massage”. The woman isn’t giving birth in the picture, the doctor is, excuse the crude language, giving her a hand job.

  7. Anne says:

    Here’s a link for the image you couldn’t find a source for–I used TinEye to find it. :)

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