In honor of Women’s History Month, I’m reopening the blog with a few thoughts about the history of care during pregnancy and birth.
My first thought was to write about the history of birth …
(yes, I went there. Pop star on a bear skin rug, yo. How could I not?)
… but that turned into a 10-year long dissertation prospect, so I’m breaking it down into much, much smaller bits.
First look at the history of birth care: La Trotula. This is a compilation of several treatises on women’s health care from about the 12th Century AD, and it’s amazing. Not only does it suggest any number of really, really nutty-to-us cures for female troubles, but it also puts forth helpful advice, actually things I would suggest to my clients.
“Let sneezing be provoked with powder of frankincense placed in the nostrils” and “Let her drink ivory shavings” and “Likewise, the white stuff which is found in the excrement of a hawk, given in a potion, is good” — none of these are going to make my Top Ten Tips for a Sweet Pregnancy and Labor. I don’t even know where to get any frankincense.
The requirement to suspend coral from your neck couldn’t hurt, I suppose. Unlike the white stuff from the excrement of a hawk. Really? Really.
But the neat thing I found in this book is the amount of advice that holds true 900 years later, probably because this is the kind of stuff that has worked for the last 900 years, and for the 200,000+ years before that. “If her feet swell up, let them be rubbed with rose oil and vinegar…” and then feed the pregnant woman the best food you have around. YES. Also, when the pregnant woman reaches her ninth month, “let her be bathed often, let her belly be anointed with olive oil or oil of violets, and let her eat light and readily digestible foods.” YES AGAIN. Who doesn’t love a massage and a little pampering? And if labor is difficult? Walk around the house, slowly. A THIRD TIME, I CONCUR.
When it comes to birth and the care of women who are birthing, there is really nothing new under the sun. Massage, warm baths, good food and walking around area all excellent ways to care for the pregnant and laboring woman. I like sticking with old favorites. Except the hawk poo. Getting rid of that was a big step forward.
More thoughts on the history of birth and birth care coming up during March for Women’s History Month!