They Did What? 10 Weird Facts About Birth Throughout History

Sunday, September 1st, 2013 by from Blog from the Belly

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  • pregnant-at-beach
    Image via Flickr/MeaganJean

    You might think giving birth is something that women have been doing since the dawn of time. And you would be right about that, of course.

    Not much has changed about the fact that a woman gets pregnant and has a baby.

    But what has changed is the way that women have given birth. Click through for some surprising facts about childbirth throughout history!

    {Continued: Historical Birth Fact #1}

What do you think? They Did What? 10 Weird Facts About Birth Throughout History

Chaunie Brusie, RN, BSNAuthor

Chaunie Brusie is a writer, speaker, and labor and delivery nurse. She began serving as an advocate for young mothers after discovering her own two tiny blue lines during her senior year of college. She blogs about her journey as a young mom of four at and her first book, Tiny Blue Lines, is now available. Find Chaunie on < ... More

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  1. Avatar of Alison Alison says:

    I want to bake a cake during early labor! I’ll have something exciting to eat for later then, too :D

  2. Avatar of Angharad Angharad says:

    The “dirty hands” bit – this happened when male doctors pushed midwives out of the business in the 1800s, and the lightbulb about washing your *bleeping* hands was something they’d known for centuries and only got figured out when a doctor figured out that a lot less women died of childbed (puerperal) fever, an illness that caused a horrible death within days of birth, when he made his students wash their hands before literally going from autopsies to asissting in births. (One of puerperal fever’s most famous victims was Jane Seymour, the third wife of Henry VIII and the only one to give birth to a boy. They were very much in love, and her death was one of the things that began his decline from strong, handsome, fit athlete to the man you most likely picture when Henry’s name comes up.)

  3. Avatar of Kerry Kerry says:

    That one fact about the male doc’s not wanting women to have pain relief, sad, yes, unfair, certainly, stupid, absolutely. The Genesis account does say that women would endure pain from child birth. However, if one carefully reads what is said aboout how God views women, then those doctors would have been falling all over themselves to get the mother to be the latest in comfort and pain relief possible.
    Excuse me for joining the group, a woman I am not. However, the bit about the doc’s, something had to be said, and so I have. Many have a very wrong point of view for what God thinks of women. Please remember, Jesus was born by woman, and NOT conceived by a human man. “She” has no responsibility for the fall of man into sin. Look closely, she was NOT told to not eat the forbidden fruit by God. Adam was and he disobeyed. Had Adam stopped everything, not taken the fruit, and waited on God to settle the issue, this world would be totally different. Ladies, God has a lot more “plusses” for you than many men realize. He is on your side, regardless of what most, mere men, may tell you.

  4. Avatar of Grace Grace says:

    If I was born before that shot for different blood types my children would not be….

  5. Avatar of mommy nhoj mommy nhoj says:

    Baking cake while in labor is sweet! Labor of love :)

  6. Avatar of Theresa Theresa says:

    Those were some interesting facts! I’m g;ad I live in a time where cleanliness and doctors are present during a birth.

  7. Avatar of Karleen Karleen says:

    These facts are weird. They’re kind of sad too.

  8. Avatar of Roselind Roselind says:

    I can see a less morbid reason to write a will on first awareness of pregnancy. You want to plan for your child’s needs. IF anyrhing happens, you can have planned for who will raise your child, who will be leagal guardian, who will administrate the legacy, etc.

  9. Avatar of Nat Nat says:

    some midwives still advise a glass of wine or beer to help calm you during delivery and after to help with nursing.

  10. Avatar of Nichole Nichole says:

    I didn’t bake a cake while I was in labor but I was pacing atty my oldest son’s football practice, then we went home first so he could take a shower and change. I told him (13) & his little brother (6) that I didn’t want 2 stinky boys in my delivery room. I have never seen them take showers that fast in their lives… 3 hours later my little girl was born & the doc had clean & gloved hands

  11. Avatar of Terra Terra says:

    Interesting. I’m glad I was born in this millenium!!

  12. Avatar of Besa Besa says:

    Those were some interesting facts :)

  13. Avatar of Member Member says:

    Some of these are actually still in use today. The birth stool for one…my birthing center has one and some of the hospitals I toured here in Denver have them as well. The Groaning Cake is really amazing. Not only does it help distract you during the early stages but it also is made with ingredients that nourish the momma post birth. Oddly, when I got pregnant I made out a will! That just seems like good sense

  14. Avatar of Chana Chana says:

    birth stool and not catching the baby-they should bring those things back. lots of the other things-people still cook while in labor and many people write a will in case of complications.

    • Avatar of Member Member says:

      The birth stool is actually still used today…my birth center has one and some of the hospitals I toured do as well. You can order them online too if you want to use one and where you deliver doesn’t have them.

      • Avatar of LadyAnneJT LadyAnneJT says:

        In Colonial America (and I suppose many other part of the world at that time) two woman would sit beside the laboring mother, one on either side, and she would straddle their legs, so she was sort of sitting “in the air” between them. They, and the other women in the neighborhood, would offer support and encouragement, and give her somebody to hang onto during the birth. Giving birth in a prone position is sort of counter-productive; you do need to be as near upright as possible so gravity can do its job.

  15. Avatar of tessa tessa says:

    actually, the curse of child birth pain is in the Holy Bible. Because of Eve’s sin God cursed all her children with it. So what they did back then is understandable. Am i happy they no longer practice this? yes!

    • Avatar of LadyAnneJT LadyAnneJT says:

      Actually, this is an urban myth. Until the mid1800s, there simply was NO anesthetic for any sort of medical care, from amputations to kidney stones. The best you could hope for was to get drunk enough that you were “feeling no pain”. Chloroform was used as an early anesthetic for childbirth. The mother held the cloth against her face and as she lost consciousness, her hand fell away, preventing an overdose. As soon as ether became available, both doctors and clergy accepted it eagerly. What I really *don’t* understand is women who want to turn back the clock and “go natural”.

      • Avatar of Ambur Ambur says:

        I’ve gone natural twice now. Not because I love pain because I don’t. But because the pain meds and all the intervention that comes with it is more scary to me than the potential for pain. I want to do all I can to protect my body from physical trauma. Having drug free home briths greatly reduces the chance that I’d end up with a c-section or an episiotomy. I honestly feel safer knowing that I have freedom of movement in labor than I would with an epidural and being stuck to a bed and monitors.

        I feel that women should have the choice in how they birth. My choice is just different than the choice you would make. Neither my choice (pain med free) or your choice (having pain meds) is wrong. We just have different desires and needs.

    • Avatar of Jenn Jenn says:

      So all women are punished for one’s mistake? Yes, that seems fair…

    • Avatar of Jeri Jeri says:

      Thank you for posting this. Sadly, but as also predicted in the same book, people are falling away from their faith and would call this a myth or fairy tale. We are the only mammals to experience this sort of pain in childbirth. Even apes have a nice straight birth canal to ease the process. Our bodies all but prevent our babies from getting from the uterus into the world. I have yet to confirm this, but just read where the pain of birth (measured in units called “del”), roughly equals that of 20 bones breaking simultaneously.

  16. Avatar of ale ale says:

    Thats some birth history i didnt know

  17. Imagine that…can I get a margarita please I’ve been craving one of those for months now lol

  18. Avatar of Kitty Kitty says:

    A bottle of good wine sounds like a good thing to have at the bedside for my next delivery. ;)

  19. Avatar of nichole nichole says:

    some of its not so surprizing if you just think of the times it was done in. not that it is something ide want tho. glad i can count on my doc to have clean hands… and my baby not falling into a pile of leaves…. altho if i wasnt so afraid of it effecting the baby, a drink or two might be nice ;)

  20. Avatar of Melissa Melissa says:

    I think Queen Victoria was influential in getting anesthesia to be accepted. She tried it with her fourth kid. Difficult to argue with a queen!

  21. Avatar of Jess Jess says:

    umm no thankyou to most of these!

  22. Avatar of mc32shafe mc32shafe says:

    Extremely Interesting! Really liked #6 : Baking Cakes. I couldn’t imagine,being in all that pain,and yet here I am baking a cake? I really am glad that child birth has come so far!!!

  23. Avatar of Dario Dario says:

    Intriguing, very!

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