They Did What? 10 Weird Facts About Birth Through History

weird birth facts
Image adapted via Flickr/ Meagan

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!

Weird Fact #1: They gave birth on bricks

In Biblical times, women were assisted by other women to stand on two bricks that were placed underneath their feet. The stones were dubbed “birthing bricks” and helped the midwife or assistant to have a little extra room to catch the baby.

Weird Fact #2: They birthed on a stool

Eventually, when humans started to become less nomadic and lived more in dwellings instead of roaming around in tents outside, midwives used a birthing stool. The pregnant woman would lean back on the stool, usually supported by other women behind her, to give birth.

Weird Fact #3: They drank alcohol during labor

Sure, it sounds a little crazy to us now, but we have to keep in mind that alcohol was consumed more commonly than water way back when and, well, let's be honest — childbirth hurts. You can't really blame them for wanting a little nightcap to take the edge off.

historical birth
Image via Flickr/ lisby1

Weird Fact #4: They gave birth publicly

This is one case where I definitely feel that the “poor princess” syndrome does apply. Historically, royal births had to be attended, like a public spectacle, to ensure that no tricky baby-switching business went down.

Weird Fact #5: They got married while giving birth

In one South African tribe, women were married only while giving birth. Do you think they practiced saying “I do” instead of their Lamaze breathing?

Weird Fact #6: They baked cakes during labor

In The Birth House, author Amy McKay describes an ancient tradition practiced by many rural women of making what was dubbed a “groaning cake” while in labor. I'm guessing you can figure out why it was called a groaning cake, but it was thought to help ease a woman's pain during labor. And hey, it might have actually worked by keeping her distracted. For a little while, at least.

Weird Fact #7: They had to deal with dirty hands

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It really wasn't until the 20th century that the germ theory was discovered. Until then, doctors went around using their dirty hands to manipulate babies and pull out placentas. Can you imagine?

Weird Fact #8: They made out wills when they were expecting

This is a sad, but true, fact: for women throughout history, finding out you were pregnant came with a real risk of facing your own death. Many women, right up and through the Victorian ages, made out their wills as soon as they realized that they were expecting.

god
Image via Flickr/ Waiting For The Word

Weird Fact #9: They considered pain in childbirth a sign from God

Did you know that when anesthetics for labor were first discovered in the early 1900s that the reigning board of obstetrics at the time ruled against their use on the grounds that it was women's path in life to feel pain? Yup. The male doctors on all of the governing OB/GYN boards at the time really believed that because Eve took a bite of that apple that all women should be made to suffer during childbirth.

Weird Fact #10: They didn't catch the baby

Teaching History claims that in Native American cultures, most of the time, no one bothered to catch the baby. Instead, the mother would squat or stand, give birth, and the baby would simply fall out, his fall cushioned by a lovely little pile of leaves on the ground.

{ MORE: 3 Tips that Made Giving Birth Easier }

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They Did What? 10 Weird Facts About Birth Through History

Chaunie Brusie is a coffee mug addict, a labor and delivery nurse turned freelance writer, and a young(ish) mom of four. She is the author of "Tiny Blue Lines: Preparing For Your Baby, Moving Forward In Faith, & Reclaiming Your Life In An Unplanned Pregnancy" and "The Moments That Made You A Mother". She also runs Passion Meets Practicality, a community of tips + inspiration for work-at-home mothers. ... More

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