The modern era of technology has brought on more sophisticated medical facilities to address different and complicated medical conditions and concerns. It’s not surprising then that, when people hear about childbirth in the Middle Ages, Renaissance, or they think of horrific and life-threatening experiences. The truth, however, is far from that grim description.
Midwives and Physicians
During the first few years of Renaissance, many women had died in childbirth. Most of these mothers died of puerperal fever, also known as “the doctor’s plague”. These doctors had also worked in the morgue and did not wash their hands when they went from patient to patient in the maternity ward. It wasn’t until Florence Nightingale’s adamant campaign for cleaner medical wards that the doctors were forced to start observing hygienic methods like washing their hands.
Around this time, midwives were often suspected of witchcraft; therefore, they were banned from delivering babies. In the outer villages, however, some women who still gave birth through the help of trained midwives were spared from the puerperal fever.
Midwives had a very huge impact on the birthing process. Midwives came from different socio-economic backgrounds, but they were all entrusted with helping pregnant women give birth safely. Their experience and presence made expecting mothers more comfortable and confident in giving birth.
Childbirth without Fear
While many women were content to give birth in their own homes, without medical intervention, the use of Natural Anaesthesia for Birthing spread around Europe and expecting mothers jumped on the wagon of pain-less childbirth, which, in this case, meant not experiencing the pain and the labour entirely.
Around the 1920s, a doctor who specialized in childbirth published a book on natural birthing. His work was ridiculed and he was fired from the clinic he was working in. He built his own facility and published his second book, Revelation of Childbirth, which was later re-titled Childbirth without Fear. It became a bestseller and its author, Dr. Grantly Dick-Read, became the forerunner for natural birth.
A woman in labour had declined the chloroform Dick-Read had offered her, saying that her labour was not hurting her, simply because she wasn’t expecting it to be painful. This inspired Dick-Read to study how fear of pain produced real pain, and how birth through natural means can empower women and their family to feel more in-control of their birthing process.
No one can downplay the potential danger of childbirth, but media and other depictions have made birthing seem like a horrid experience instead of a process that can actually be mindfully and pleasantly experienced. Just like their medieval counterparts, today’s trained midwife can make your childbirth safe and natural. They give support and knowledge, but also allow you control over your birth.
Stay tuned to Hypnobirthing Hub for more information about how you can have a great and natural birth!