When it comes to childbirth, Hollywood and its portrayal of the ‘miracle of birth’ has a lot to answer for.
The scene is usually the same: woman on a bed, white gown, looking sweaty and screaming blue murder, while pushing and doling out witty put downs to her husband, who stands awkwardly to one side.
It’s not a pretty picture and certainly not one that played out during childbirth in days gone by – or more specifically over 300 years ago.
For starters, there never even used to be a bed in childbirth.
The idea of giving birth on a bed wasn’t actually introduced until around the 1700’s, and according to hypnobirthing expert Katharine Graves, it was only introduced at the request of King Louis XIV.
Writing in her well-known publication The Hypnobirthing Book, Katharine explains that women only began to give birth flat on their backs not because it aided labour, but because King Louis XIV wanted to see his mistress give birth.
However, at the time, women generally laboured at the time squatting on stools, and the midwife would usually be at floor level to meet the baby.
‘But kings don’t grovel on the floor, so it all had to be frightfully proper and his mistress had to lay in a bed,’ Katharine writes.
Women in the king’s court copied this, and midwives found they had much more difficulty getting babies out when mothers lay flat, so doctors were called in a lot more often.
Soon word spread and everyone started giving birth laying down, believing that if it was done in the royal household then it must be for the best.
Katharine, who is a leading hypnobirthing teacher and associate member of the Royal college of Midwives, however, claims that squatting is one of the best and most natural positions for childbirth, because ‘you have gravity on your side and you have the maximum pelvic capacity [in this position].’
Squatting helps baby to deliver more swiftly and easily than when laying on your back – like the movies.
If you lay on your back, not only do you not have gravity on your side but your body is actually working against you.
During childbirth the baby moves down towards the coccycx, which has a natural curve up. When squatting, this flexes and moves, but if you are lying on your back, the curve gets in your baby’s way as it makes its way down the birth canal. Labour is then so much harder and more uncomfortable for the mother.
What do you think? Did you give birth squatting or on a bed? Let us know in the comments box below.