The Reality of Childbirth in the 1800s

By | December 13, 2018

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Maternity', C1880S.Maternity', c1880s. Artist: Eugene Carriere. (Photo by National Museum & Galleries of Wales Enterprises Limited/Heritage Images/Getty Images)

In the 1800s childbirth was agonizing and perilous. There were no anesthetics with the exception of opium, which was rarely used. At the time, it was accepted that women were supposed to suffer during childbirth as the Bible states; it was the price women were to pay for the original sin. 

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Most women gave birth at home during the 1800s, usually with the help of family and friends. Some women practiced as midwives, however, they did not have any formal training. Doctors were a last resort when there was a concern that the mother might die, but many times the doctors actually brought more risks than actual help. The danger of infection from a doctor’s assistance was very high. In the 1800s, doctors did not have training in obstetrics.

Women suffered the staggering mortality rate of one in eight when giving birth in the 1880s.

Pregnancy and childbirth have come a long way since the 19th Century. Back in those days, there was very little if any prenatal care. Women were expected to keep up with their daily chores and even field work, if necessary while carrying a baby. It was just something that went with the territory and it was very common for women to be pregnant many times over during their lifetime. The fact remains, however, that as natural a process as it was, it was extremely dangerous for both mother and baby.