Birthowl’s natural childbirth

Painless Childbirth

by Alice B. Stockham, M.D.

“I know of no country, no tribe, no class, where childbirth is attended with so much pain and trouble as in this country.”

Thus replied a traveler who had been many years in foreign lands, upon being interrogated as to the comparative sufferings of savage and civilized women. His occupation and sympathies had brought him into close relationship with all classes of people, and therefore fitted him for an intelligent and discriminating judgment in this matter.

Neither in India, Hindostan, China, Japan, the South Sea Islands, South America, nor indeed in any country do women suffer in both pregnancy and parturition as they do in this. Possibly among the higher classes in Europe there may be equal suffering; but the peasantry everywhere is comparatively exempt.

The usual testimony of missionaries and travelers is that the squaws of our own Indian tribes experience almost no suffering in childbirth, and the function scarcely interferes with the habits, pleasures or duties of life.

Mrs. Armstrong, one of the early missionaries in the Sandwich Islands, says: “With native women the labor was not long nor severe; the mother, instead of remaining in bed, arose, bathed in cold water, walked and ate as usual.”

Dr. Storer says: “There is probably no suffering ever experienced which will compare, in proportion to its extent in time, with the throes of parturition.” Dr. Meigs says: “Men can not suffer the same pain as women. What do you call the pains of parturition? There is no name for them but agony!”

It is too true that women go down to death in giving birth to children. Thousands of women believe that this pain is natural and that for it there can be no alleviation. “In sorrow shalt thou bring forth children” is thought to be a curse that applies to all women of all time.

If this pain and travail is a natural accompaniment of physiological functions – if it is a curse upon women, then why are the rich, the enlightened and more favored daughters of earth greater sufferers than the peasantry, the savage, the barbarian, and those who we call heathen? Is it not possible, by research and comparison, to learn the natural and true mode of life, so that motherhood may, among enlightened people, be relieved from this burden of suffering? May it not prove that our traditions and teachings upon this subject have been altogether erroneous?

American women in education and enlightenment, in freedom and progress, are the peers of the best and noblest of their sex. From individual, social and national interests, they ought to be conversant with all that pertains to this subject, so closely allied to the interests of the race.

We find in women of superior education and marked intelligence an exaggerated development of the emotional nature, and a corresponding deterioration of physical powers. Weakness, debility, and suffering is the common lot of most of them. Not one in a hundred has health and strength to pursue any chosen study, or to follow any lucrative occupation, and what is vastly worse, most are unfitted for the duties and perils of maternity.

Dr. Gaillard Thomas says: “Neither appreciation of, nor desire for, physical excellence sufficiently exists among refined women of our day. Our young women are too willing to be delicate, fragile and incapable of endurance. They dread above all things the glow and hue of health, the rotundity and beauty of muscularity, the comely shapes which the great masters gave to the Venus de Medici and Venus de Milo. All these attributes are viewed as coarse and unladylike, and she is regarded as most to be envied whose complexion wears the livery of disease, whose muscular development is beyond the suspicion of embonpoint, and whose waist can almost be spanned by her own hands.


“As a result, how often do we see our matrons dreading the process of child-bearing, as if it were an abnormal and destructive one; fatigued and exhausted by a short, walk, or ordinary household cares; choosing houses with special reference to freedom from one extra flight of stairs, and commonly debarred the one great maternal privilege of nourishing their own offspring. These are they who furnish employment for the gynecologist, and who fill our homes with invalids and sufferers.”

Understanding and following physiological laws, pregnancy ought to be as free from pathological symptoms, and parturition as void of suffering with American women as with any on earth, or even with the lower animals.

Dr. Dewees says: “Pain in childbirth is a morbid symptom; it is a perversion of nature caused by modes of living not consistent with the most healthy condition of the system, and a regimen which would insure a completely healthy condition might be counted on with certainty to do away with such pain.”

The great English scientist, Professor Huxley, says: “We are indeed, fully prepared to believe that the bearing of children may and ought to become as free from danger and long debility to the civilized woman as it is to the savage.”

The following paragraphs from one of the essays in Dr. Montgomery’s classical work on Pregnancy, give practical details of cases in illustration of the belief in painless parturition.

“In a letter to me Dr. Douglas states that he was called about 6 A. M., Sept. 26, 1828, to attend a Mrs. D., residing on Eccles St.

“On his arrival he found the house in the utmost confusion, and was told that the child had been born before the messenger was dispatched for the doctor. From the lady herself he learned that, about half an hour previously, she had been awakened from a natural sleep by the alarm of a daughter about five years old, who slept with her.

“This alarm was occasioned by the little girl feeling the movements, and hearing the cries of an infant in bed. To the mother’s great surprise she had brought forth her child without any consciousness of the fact. “A lady of great respectability, the wife of a peer of the realm, was actually delivered once in her sleep; she immediately awakened her husband, being alarmed to find one more in bed than there was before.

“I have elsewhere mentioned the case of a patient of mine who bore eight children without ever having labor pains. Her deliveries were so sudden and void of sensible effect that in more than one instance they took place under most awkward circumstances, but without any suffering.”

Dr. J. King, in his work on Obstetrics, speaks of attending cases where there was no sensation of pain.

He found that by placing the hand upon the abdomen, the muscular contractions were distinctly felt, and examination proved the progress of labor, while, excepting a suppressed breath, the patient experienced no change from the ordinary condition.

With Dr. Holmes, I believe it will take many years to eradicate diseased conditions which are the heritage of this generation, and thus to produce men and women of physical perfection. Science has proven, however, that any woman possessing sufficient vitality to make procreation possible, can do much, even during pregnancy, to alleviate the sufferings of that period, as well as the final throes of travail. Pain and suffering have so long been the customary attendant upon the maternal functions, that many are slow to believe they can ever be alleviated. Painless childbirth is thought to be an impossibility. The reader is begged to lay aside all previous prejudices, and it is believed that when this volume has been thoroughly studied he will be convinced that women in bearing offspring should furnish no exception to the laws of nature, and that pregnancy and parturition may and ought to be devoid of suffering.

Tokology: A Book for Every Woman

1911 by Alice B. Stockham, M.D



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