Childbirth has always been a difficult time for both the mother and the child. This was due to a variety of issues, including the risk of both blood loss and infection. Due to our upright stance, humans have smaller pelvises than other animals, including our closest relatives, the Great Apes. Because of our larger brains, we have more oversized heads. Consequently, people have sought to find ways to make labor and pregnancy easier.

Male philosophers and doctors often pondered the philosophical and medical ramifications of childbirth, even though they often had nothing to do with it. In some cultures, they were even banned from participating or witnessing it. Instead, women in labor were attended to by family members and midwives who did their best to help. Before the advent of books, knowledge of midwifery was passed on from generation to generation. Midwives required extensive experience, including herbal remedies and setting up a room for the birth. Despite this, birthing remained a dangerous process in regions like the Norse lands. Even during pregnancy, Norse women were expected to keep working and return to work with little delay after the birth. The mother would nurse a child for around two years. Pregnancy and labor have always been arduous and will likely continue to be so for millennia to come.

Artist: Dayanna Knight

A viking women in labour

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Credit: Dayanna Knight and Open Past

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