The manner in which women give birth has really changed throughout the years, and most definitely for the better. There was a time when we did not have delivery rooms or pain medication. Giving birth was a torturous experience.
In the 1800s, the fatality rate during pregnancy was very high, especially when women were giving birth at home with nothing for pain or comfort.
Prior to the 1970s, fathers were really not permitted to enter the delivery room. They would have to wait out in the waiting areas unless the patient highly disagreed with that policy back in the 1960s. After the 1980s it became the norm, and it was actually expected of the fathers to be in the delivery rooms. Not only can the father be there in the delivery room during the birth, but now in most hospitals, he can even be the one to cut the cord. In the event that the mother has a c-section, dad can even be there during the operation.
Today doctors do everything they can to make the patient comfortable before and after the birth. There is excellent care for both mother and child. Here we have listed a few different delivery rooms throughout history.
The date of this photo is unknown, but it is obviously very old. It may seem like a horrible room to be in to deliver a child, but if you were to go a little farther back in time, there would have been no medical devices whatsoever. What may seem ancient to us would have seemed like real advancement to others.
Just having a bed in this room is an improvement to some, because there was a time when a woman would give birth sitting up in a birthing chair, not the most comfortable way to have a child. Especially without any sort of pain medication. I can’t even imagine what it would have been like for women back then. So, even if you give birth in some dungeon, just having a bed would make a difference I guess.
This picture shows a woman laying on a hospital table. Her doctor is standing right next to her, while her nurse is standing right behind her. Giving birth in the 1950s was very different from what it is like today. Women did not have control over their birthing experience. Today, a lot of women may think they don’t have control, but they get to choose whether or not they want to bring their child into this world with pain medication and they can choose who they want and don’t want in the delivery room.
During this era, women were always given something known as a “twilight sedation,” where they were completely unconscious during the delivery. They didn’t even know what the inside of their delivery room looked like. Most women, these days, cherish being able to see their baby girl or boy the instant they are born. That was unheard of back then.
This picture is from the early 19th century inside of the Anne Arundel Medical Center in Annapolis, MD. They opened up to their first patient in 1902. From then until 1919, the hospital grew rapidly, and they established a maternity ward capable of holding six patients in 1919. Believe it or not, at that time a six-patient ward was a big deal.
Throughout the years this hospital expanded greatly and changed names a few times. The main building of the hospital was destroyed by a fire in 1927. In 1946, they were taking in more patients than they had rooms for.
The name was changed to the Anne Arundel General Hospital in 1949. From that point on they just kept expanding, more and more. It is awesome how far we can advance in a few decades.
Here is a picture from 1944 showing a woman thrashing about in her bed. In those days, it was common for women to have their hands and feet strapped down in the bed. Many of these women were given drugs that would cause hallucinations, which is why they would be thrashing about, and which is the reason for restraining them. The woman in this picture obviously has her hands free, but more than likely, that did not last very long, given the way she was acting.
The mothers-to-be would be given a mixture of morphine and scopolamine, so they would not remember any of the pain but they would have sporadic hallucinations. Unfortunately, this effect would not wear off right away, and so it could be a few days or longer until they could see their child.
In this undated photo, there is a delivery room nurse making the needed preparations for a delivery. This may be an operational birth by the look of the room. Just looking at it makes me think that it is very unsanitary compared to what we have today.
It looks more like the inside of a bathroom than a hospital delivery room. I am just thankful for the sake of women everywhere that we have made so many wonderful improvements through the years. I wonder if a lot of women back then were too afraid to have babies. Of course, the rapid growth in population tells me that, afraid or not, it didn’t stop them. Looking at these old pictures, I am so thankful that men do not have to go through this.
Prior to the 1920s, most women were giving birth at home with the help of family and friends. They did not have the luxury of the medication we have today or have a team of highly educated individuals looking after them, but luckily that was going to change.
It was in the 20’s and 30’s when pregnant women were accepted more in the hospitals, with the idea that they should be able to take some time off from their normal routines and enjoy being taken care of for a while. In this picture, there is a pregnant woman being looked after by a doctor, and she seems quite content, much better than what her own mother probably went through having her, but of course, not as good as her child will eventually experience. Thank goodness for progress.
In this photo, a woman named Jean is obviously in a lot of pain as she grabs hold of the handles on the sides of the bed to start pushing. You can see that the bed does have straps on it, but apparently, they did not need to use them for her. Hey, at least they had handles to hold onto, my wife almost broke my hand when she was pushing.
I really think that those beds should still have those handles on them today, it seems like a good thing to have. Maybe some hospitals do, I don’t know. I know they didn’t where my wife gave birth. Women have incredible strength during childbirth, and it would be better if they could hold onto an inanimate object rather than someone's hand.
Giving birth prior to 1960 was very different from what it is like today. Men were not to enter the delivery area. Even the doctors did not assist in the birth, it was all done by midwives. The fathers did not start entering the delivery rooms until around 1970.
Some women still choose to use midwives today, the only difference though is that they are better trained nowadays. And the husband is more than likely going to be right there giving her moral support. Some women choose this type of delivery for the simple reason that the midwives, being women themselves, understand what the mother is going through, and can assist with greater passion than a man can. It is very easy to understand the logic there. A male doctor can be highly educated but still not fully understand what the woman is really going through.
This photo is not of a birthing room but I found it to be very interesting. This is a picture of a room where they would perform abortions in the 1800s. The rate at which women lost their lives from abortions back then was about 30 percent. Having an abortion during this time period meant trouble for the woman.
From the late 18th to the mid 19th century, abortion was seen as something that was extremely socially unacceptable. Any woman that wanted or needed an abortion usually had to go about it secretly, without the help and support of their loved ones. Can you imagine needing to get an abortion and being able to tell no one, especially with the rate that women were passing away? It does not matter what era a woman came from, having an abortion can be tough on the mind and body.
Here we have a picture of an early English maternity ward, dating between 1920 and 1930. It actually looks like a fairly cozy setup. The beds look comfortable, but maybe not so much with the babies who sleep in those little basket- looking things.
Again, you do not see any of the fathers around, it was quite rare to see men in the maternity wards or birthing rooms. It does look like the nurses are there to give them plenty of support. These women probably really needed their rest, because giving birth in those days was so much harder than it is today.
These pictures only show us a very small piece of what was really going on, it would more than likely be hard for us today to see the whole picture.
This is a picture of one of the steps taken before a woman could successfully give birth to her child. This was taken in July of 1931, during the Great Depression. This mom-to-be is receiving the twilight sedation so she does not have to feel the pain of childbirth. Not only will she be free of pain, but she will also be unconscious and unaware of everything that was about to happen to her.
It may sound magical, but it is far from that. It could take days to weeks for a mom to recover from the sedative effects. There have been instances of women waking up and claiming that the baby the nurses eventually brought to her, was not hers - even if it truly was. Who knows what could happen when it was lights out after taking that horrid stuff.
In this picture, a nurse is pictured clasping her hands together while she stands in an old-time delivery room next to the table. There was not much information about this picture, but if you look for an image of today’s delivery room compared to this one - they look pretty different. The table alone looks like it could hurt or even be some form of a torture device. The room is very bland and does not have much going on in there. That alone can make it seem unfriendly and unwelcoming. Even the operating rooms today seem more comfortable and welcoming.
Sadly, without much information about this picture, an approximate date is not available. But looking at the other pictures, it is comparable to somewhere between the 1920s through the early 1950s.
This picture is truly a haunting blast from the past. Can you imagine having to give birth in this kind of setting? The first maternity hospital wasn’t even created until about 1914 - and this picture is from this time period. Forget modesty and dignity, moms were strapped to a table while their unconscious bodies lay there, limp and wrapped in a type of wool.
At this time, about 90 percent of doctors had no type of medical teachings. It appears that anyone could become a doctor. I wouldn’t want to have any of my doctors touch me without any kind of training! How about you? The first year that these hospital settings were created, was also when the former twilight anesthetic became popularized as well.
To make it even more horrifying, the recovery period in the hospital averaged about 10 days and was much more painful than it is now.
In the 1940s, a doctor by the name of Grantly Dick-Read published a book regarding the benefits of having a natural childbirth. The mom pictured here was one of the lucky ones who got to try it and greet her little one right after he or she was born, and fully aware of what was going on, not leaving room for any surprises. In this picture from the past, you may take notice of the fact that the woman is all covered, minus her head and arms. It was common for natural childbirth to look like this.
You have probably heard an older woman in your family talk about how women didn’t dress the way we do today in her younger years - they were covered up much more. That even included when they were delivering their babies. The only time that would not have applied fully, was doing the twilight sedation. They would be wrapped and unwrapped head-to-toe in wool. It looks quite different today, doesn’t it?
Here is a picture of one of our more modern delivery rooms - so much better, don’t you think? This woman is being prepared for a c-section. And judging by the smile on her face, she is feeling no pain. A c-section is performed when there are complications that will make it unsafe for her to have a V-birth.
Unlike the older days, she will be numbed from the chest down; she will remain awake through it, but will not be feeling anything. Also unlike her older relatives, she will be taken care of by a very highly educated staff.
It is truly amazing how far we have come in the medical fields from the 19th century until today. And medical advancements will continue to evolve as time goes on.
Sources: ncbi.nlm.nih.gov, bellybelly.com