Pregnancy in the Middle Ages

Do you think your labour was bad? Maybe there were complications or scares but you’ve pulled through them. Can you imagine what life was like when medical care was appalling? Do you wonder what pregnancy was like throughout history? Well, here are a few facts about pregnancy during the middle ages.

Women Were Expected to Have Babies

It was a woman’s duty to have babies in the middle ages. There was a lot of pressure for this and it led to martial problems if the wife couldn’t provide.

For the monarchy, the wife had to provide an heir and it was considered her fault if this wasn’t possible—despite now knowing the truth.

Boys were preferred for most families but girls could be used to marry into position.

Most Babies Were Miscarried or Stillborn

The majority of medieval women would have stillborns or miscarriages.

The hygiene was so poor and there was little understood about pregnancy. Babies that did live were lucky to last to adulthood.

It was so mad that families were large just in case deaths happened with most women being pregnant four to eight times within the marriage years.

Arrangement Were Made Before Birth

Women weren’t expected to survive the birth of the baby. One of the most common diseases was known as childbed fever.

This meant that arrangements would be made before the birth so the right person would care for the child.

However, the child was often seen as a burden to the other family if the mother did die.

A Mother Wouldn’t Survive a C-Section

If a c-section was needed, the mother definitely would not survive.

There wasn’t the medical care or the knowledge. Because of that, a c-section would only be performed if it was necessary and the baby was expected to live or the mother was already dead.

A Pregnant Woman Had a Time of Confinement

Pregnant women would go through a period of confinement during the later stages of pregnancy. It was believed that this would prevent premature babies.

Women were confined to their beds and the curtains were drawn so no light was allowed into the room.

Today, it is known as bed rest when it is thought that is the best for mother and baby, although light isn’t blocked!

Ale and Wine was Used to Calm Nerves

Pregnancy was a scary time for women in the Middle Ages. One complication could lead to death.

To help ease nerves, ale and wine were served to the pregnant woman.

This was long before the link between alcohol and health were noted!

Pregnancy was Surrounded in Suspicion

There was a lot of suspicion surrounding everything that happened during the Middle Ages, especially pregnancy.

Believing that evil spirits would harm the baby, the room for confinement had to be warm. Carpet was often placed on the walls, floor and ceiling!

The room would be kept in a dark colour to make it feel homely and deter the evil creatures. Candles would also be lit to help with this.

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