Childbirth in Early America
Women in early America referred to childbirth as “the greatest of earthly miseries.” They faced childbirth not with joy but with fear of their lives. Through advances of medicines and knowledge of proper sanitation throughout the centuries, childbirth became safer for mothers and infants. It is now possible to enjoy the childbearing process.
Sometime ago, women face childbirth with fear and anxieties. They knew that childbirth could be a difficult and sometimes extremely dangerous experience for women and babies. “During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, between 1 percent and 1.5 percent of all births ended in the mother’s death. A mother’s lifetime chances of dying in childbirth ran as high as 1 in 8 (Mintz).” Since death was so adequately common, many women approached childbirth with fear of eternal judgment.
Disregarding a mother’s worries and concerns about her pregnancy, she feared the death of her newborn child. The death of newborns was extremely common in early America due to lack of sanitation and little knowledge of bacteria. If an infant lived after birth, he had little chances of surviving to see the age of five.
Early American women relied heavily on myths and superstitions to guide them during their pregnancies (Pediatrics). They believed that they should not get up before the ninth day after delivery which was critical in the healing process or be considered unlucky. Another superstition was if the mother looked at the moon, her child would become a sleepwalker or lunatic (Mintz). These women believed that hard work was supposed to make labor easier, so they worked up to delivery. Women who miscarried were blamed for overexerting themselves (Cunnington).
During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, women had their babies at home and learned about childbirth from local wise women like mothers, grandmothers, and close females. Midwives, usually with little or no medical training, assisted in...
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