#5 The strange history of childbirth…

Now, I know it sounds like a weird topic for a 19 year old (and not a pregnant one or one who’s planning children any time soon) to be interested in, but I’ve always been fascinated by childbirth and was even considering becoming a midwife before anthropology lured me in.

They mentioned on ‘One Born Every Minute‘ that women have always given birth standing up or squatting. I thought, that’s QI, I will look into this and find out some quick facts for today’s piece of knowledge!

Piece of knowledge #5

AZTECS 12th – 16th century, Mexico

  • Women were treated like goddesses when they became pregnant, and lavish banquets were thrown for them
  • Sweatbaths and herbal drinks were given to a woman in labour by the midwife, if the baby still doesn’t arrive then a good kick in the back was in order
  • If the baby died in the womb it was hacked up with an obsidian blade by the midwife in order to be removed
  • If the woman died during childbirth, her body parts were at risk of being stolen and used as good luck charms

ANCIENT GREECE & ROME c. 2nd century

  • Women in labour were made a drink laced with sow’s dung and inhaled fumes from hyena fat
  • The original BioOil: they rubbed oils into her belly to decrease the appearance of stretch marks
  • The original vajazzle: her genitals were ‘anointed’ with herbs and injected with softeners such as goose fat
  • It was believed that if the womb shifted the best way to get it back in place was to coax it back with sweet smelling herbs

INCAS c. 13th – 16th century, Peru

(Not directly related to childbirth but I was intrigued as I’ll be visiting Machu Picchu in a few months!)

  • The baby doesn’t have a name for the first two years of it’s life but was called “wawa”. The child then had a temporary name until puberty when their permanent name was chosen in order to reflect the person
  • If a couple wanted to marry they could have a trial run of it and if it didn’t work out they could look for a new partner with no shame, virginity was also no big deal in Inca life!

Childbirth hurts human women the most out of all animals because we have the largest sculls relative to our bodies thanks to our big brains… Damn our intelligence! 

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