Sunday, December 14, 2008

Question from Elizabeth M - Birthing methods

How did women in Tudor England give birth? I have heard of a "groaning chair" with an open bottom for the afterbirth. Was this a primitive version of our modern exam table that can be adjusted and has the stirrups? Or did they give birth in bed? I have also seen reference to a wooden device with handles for the birthing mother to hold onto?

1 comment:

PhD Historian said...

The overwhelming majority of women in the Tudor period were members of families that could not usually afford specialized furniture such as "groaning chairs" and birthing stools. They instead gave birth wherever was most comfortable, usually in a bed. However, squatting was a common position for laboring before the actual birth.

In larger communities where midwives were present, the midwife might own a birthing chair and carry it to the laboring woman. Many surviving examples of the chairs are actually quite compact and lightweight. You can see examples of them by doing a Google Images search under the keywords "Birthing chair." Many of them did indeed have handles for the laboring mother to hold on to, but no stirrups.