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20 Childbirth Photos Throughout History

These photos are proof of just how terrifying labor was in the past.

Childbirth is never an easy process and there is so much involved with tons of decisions to make such as what hospital you are going to give birth at if you want an epidural, and who you want to have in the delivery room with you. Soon-to-be moms have not always had so many options and choices. You basically got what you got 100 years ago, even up to as early as the 1960’s. Your baby’s father was also not allowed to be in the delivery room with you to offer support as well as their hand.

Before 1914, giving birth in a hospital was not even an option since there was no such thing as a maternity ward. Can you imagine not having any choice when it came to bringing your child into the world?

Lucky for us, women in the 21st century have so many more options than what our grandmother’s and our great grandmother’s had. The women, who may very well still be in our lives, have lived through the things that you will see in the following haunting childbirth photographs. Continue reading if you want to see the chilling truth about how what us women had to go through a century ago.

20100 Years Ago

This picture, believe it or not, is from sometime around the late 1800’s. The mother does not look thrilled, but this is way before anesthesia was used, or twilight sleep, was used during childbirth; not that those times were much better for women before the 1970’s. In the late 1800’s, there was also a very high maternal and infant mortality rate. This picture appears to be a woman who just gave birth to triplets, and they are being brought to her.

It is just hard to believe a mom and three babies survived the birthing process back then. It was not unheard of, but it definitely was not common either. When it comes to childbirth, things are very different now compared to over a hundred years ago. I am thankful to be a woman who was born in the late 1900’s, and for all of the medical advancements that we have seen so far in our lifetime.

19What They Used Instead Of Epidurals

This is a picture of three women in 1965 in a contraption that was called the space-suit. This is a very ridiculous looking invention. At first glance, it looks like they may be trying to cook themselves; but I assure you, they are not. This crazy looking space-suit was a horrible attempt at trying to ease the pain of childbirth. It was also said that if a woman was in one of these things during the labor process, that it would make the baby more intelligent. I guess someone really pulled their wool over everyone’s eyes if people actually bought into that.

This was a kind of suction pump that was next to a reclining chair that lowered pressure inside of the suit. There was a gauge that was in front of the woman in it to monitor pressure, or to let them know when they were done cooking. I really cannot see the logic behind a space-suit and how it was supposed to help with pain. I guess you live and you learn.

18The First Meeting

Compared to the other photographs, this is a more modern one. Not modern like us millennials, but at least they are no longer covering the mother-to-be’s eyes and wrapping them from head to toe in lamb’s wool. This picture is in between the 1950’s and 1960’s. The mother is also allowed to see her beautiful baby right after. You can see the pure love and happiness on the mother’s face. She is delighted to see her baby for the first time.

It is a very good thing that the mothers no longer have to wait hours to days afterward. That must have been a difficult thing to do, especially since the mom has already waited nine long months to see their little one. Another thing in this picture that differs greatly from the others, is that the doctor is a woman. You can tell by the way she has to wrap up her hair.

17No Skin-To-Skin Contact

This haunting picture from the past is of a woman in a maternity ward of a hospital way back in 1942. The woman appears to be meeting her little one for the first time. They didn’t put the baby directly on the mom’s stomach after birth. Women had to wait to greet their baby for the first time and sometimes up to days later if mom was heavily under the twilight sleep.

Giving birth in a hospital back then was nowhere near the pleasantry that it is today. It was actually pretty horrific. Women would opt for the hospitals, at this point an estimate of 25 percent of all births were still at home, due to the new use of anesthesia. Some women would actually end up in psychiatric distress over the whole ordeal and for some, they were okay days later, two months later, and some claimed they never recovered. It makes you wonder why a woman even chose hospitals back in the 1940’s. It's horrible to think that a woman could simply go mad just from having children because usually, that doesn't happen until they are a bit older.

16Dad’s Turn To See The Baby

This picture shows a group of dad’s visiting and getting to see their pride and joy for the first time. There would be a waiting area for all the fathers to sit at while the women were doing the real work; like always. It was unheard of for a man, other than the doctor, to be in a delivery room with their wife.

In the 1960’s, men were occasionally allowed in if their wife complained enough, but the wife would get the worst looks from the nursing staff. In the 1970’s, men were finally allowed to start entering the delivery room in certain hospitals that allowed it, otherwise, the wife would have to get very hostile for their husbands to be allowed back. Finally, by the 1980’s it was practically universal that the men were welcomed into the delivery rooms. Now, with some men, we wonder why they were allowed back depending on their delivery room etiquette.

15Giving Birth During A World War

This picture above shows a mother cradling her newborn baby while they are wearing gas masks. The masks were worn across Europe in 1940-1941 and were worn to protect against air raids during the World War II era. These raids were called “blitz” which means lightning in German. The people feared that the Germans would drop gas bombs, so they would wear these masks to protect themselves in anticipation of an attack.

When women would have babies, they would place the baby in a gas mask helmet for protection as well. These baby helmets could buckle around the baby’s bottom. They look very horrifying, especially in these old black and white photographs. I can’t even imagine having to wear one of these everyday. They must have been so uncomfortable and heavy. It’s sometimes better to anticipate the worst and prepare in case anything would actually happen, this way you are not caught off guard.

14Inside The Delivery Room

This haunting old photograph was from the delivery room before the women were brought in. This picture is estimated to be from the 1950’s. Some of us would like to think, “Oh hey, that was just like 50 years ago!” Then we remember we are in now showing our age because it is 2017, and this picture is actually almost about 70 years old or more. The nurse in this picture is preparing the tray table so the soon-to-be mom that could be there at any moment.

This seems to resemble more of a surgical table than a delivery table until you take notice by the stirrups that are around the middle of what looks like an operating room table. It is just amazing how things can change so drastically throughout time. To think, someone will be looking at a picture of us one day thinking how haunting, old, and spooky we look.

13Cribs? They Used Drawers

This is an interesting picture that glances into right after childbirth in the 1950’s and 1960’s. I find it a bit comical that the baby is in a pull out drawer next to its mother. It just looks a bit odd, but pretty handy and it’s definitely a space saver when it’s not in use. I would be a little worried about how sturdy it is and if my baby would plummet to the ground because the drawer gave out, but I suppose that could happen with anything. However, I do think things were built much sturdier back in the day, or so I have heard. It looks like right after the mom had her baby, she went right to the mirror on her tray and put on makeup and did her hair. This mom for the past is very well put together for just giving birth.

12Being Held Down Was The Norm

Nurses would literally hold a mom’s arms and legs or they would put the woman into restraints. Before 'Twilight Sleep' was universal, women would flock to hospitals to have this great new drug that would make childbirth a sinch. Sometimes when people are told that there are these supposed amazing ways to alleviate pain, people will sign up not even realizing what they were fully getting themselves into.

However, not all places where horrendous when it came to this, most were but not all. If the woman was lucky enough to be rich, she could go to Germany for the full and proper twilight care, and be properly medicated based on their needs and not the general consensus. If the woman could pay, the twilight anesthesia was well worth it. Most places would give all the women the same exact dose, which is where most of the problems came from. Personally, if I couldn't afford to get to Germany, I would have much rather had my children at home, or none at all.

11This Is What Incubators Looked Like

This is a very old and haunting photograph, indeed. When you think about it, even this picture is frozen in time, the woman and babies within aren’t. There is a very likely chance that everyone within this picture is no longer among the living. This photo shows a nurse in the incubator ward in a hospital with the premature babies. This is at the early end of the 1900’s, possibly even earlier than that.

These incubator boxes have a very creepy feel to them. Even just looking at those tiny baby gowns is creepy. There is just something with the old time stuff like this that seems kind of… morbid. It could just be that looking at things in these old pictures, everything is always darker and seems more dreary due to the fact that they obviously did not have the technology that we do now. However, without the advancements people made at the turn of the century, we wouldn’t be where we are today.

10The Horrors Of Twilight Sleep

Women would go any length to be seemingly unconscious for their child’s birth. This picture is truly chilling, especially after you know more about it. This woman is in labor and preparing to give birth. She is wrapped in lamb’s wool, with the hands being connected together with a length of wool, making a “U” shape. This woman received the twilight anesthesia. It was a mixture of morphine and a drug called scopolamine, which was known to cause temporary amnesia.

The women given this combination of drugs would think that they were completely knocked out during the birth of their child when most of the time they really weren’t. They would thrash around so much while under the twilight sleep, and before using the lamb’s wool, women were physically restrained and would get bruises and marks all over them. When too many questions were being asked, the doctors added the wool to use as a cushion and to be able to tie them to the beds. The “U” shape on the arms was perfect for this. Sometimes they would leave the women tied up for days until the twilight wore off fully. Just knowing all of this, I would have just passed up the opportunity to have children in general.

9Sleeping Through Labor

This is maybe not a haunting picture per say, but it is still interesting nonetheless. This picture is of a woman in labor in July of 1939. The 1930’s were during the times of the Great Depression, and while money was scarce, women were told that hospital births were much safer because there was always a trained and specialized obstetrician performing the deliveries. By this time 75 percent of all births had moved from being at home to being in a hospital because of the safety factor.

In this picture, the woman is inhaling, from a gas machine, the twilight drug. Unfortunately, the women were being led to believe lies because no medication was safe unless it was regulated on a person-to-person basis, and in all cases, they weren’t. All women were receiving the same dose. This sadly led to a 40-50 percent increase in infant mortalities.

8Did You Know Experiments Happened?

This picture may looks innocent enough. Like a doctor is checking the stomach of a pregnant female patient, but it gets much darker than that. This haunting photograph is from the Vanderbilt “Nutrition Study” in 1945 to 1947, which exposed low-income pregnant women to radioactive iron. This “study” was funded by the U.S. Public Health Services and was, instead, an experiment to see the consumption rate of iron in pregnant women.

These women were given a drink that has this radioactive iron in it. However, they did not know what they were really drinking. Actually, it gets even worse because they weren’t actually informed that they were part of this experiment. This is ridiculously horrible. Let’s not make this any worse than it has to be, and I will just say it did not work out very well for a majority of the babies that were subjected to this substance. I cannot believe something like this would actually happen in the U.S. It probably happens more than we realize. Leason learned: do not drink anything unless you poured it yourself!

7After The Baby Is Born

In this very clear, older photograph you can see to nurses holding a baby boy shortly after birth when they are getting ready to weigh him. Look at the baby’s stomach and try to see if you can tell what is different about this newborn’s stomach compared to today’s newborns. His umbilical cord stump is virtually unnoticeable. It looks as if they already pulled it off. With today’s babies, you will notice that the stump is a decent size and is clamped closed like you would see on a bag of chips or something.

Behind these two nurses, you can see two more nurses and one of them happens to be holding someone else’s precious gift of life. You may also notice another thing within these photo's that a lot of people may not pick up on. They are not wearing any gloves.

6Inside The Nursery

I feel that any photograph of a time long forgotten can be haunting because that moment is forever gone but yet it has been memorialized and frozen at that very moment in time. It’s eerie when you think about it. This photo shows a nurse holding a baby inside of the nursery at the Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA, in 1930.

This nursery was opened the year before when this hospital reinstated the obstetrics and gynecology portion after a 75 year long gap. It was called the Women’s Building. It has 80 bassinets, 150 patient beds, a decent amount of labor and delivery rooms, as well as an outpatient clinic. That is truly amazing for that portion of time and it was also considered to be one of the best women’s centers all the way up until the 1950’s. The building still stands and is still part of Pennsylvania Hospital.

5Moms Must Always Be Covered

This is a haunting picture in the 1940’s of a woman giving birth during World War II. Lucky for many women, there was a doctor by the of Grantly Dick-Read who published a book in 1942 about the benefits of natural childbirth, which opened the doors to the decline of the twilight anesthesia use; which we by now know was never a good idea in the first place. This woman has a nurse holding her hand as she prepares to push out her beautiful baby, without the risk of a drug-induced fatality.

A lot of moms are probably thinking that natural childbirth is the worst thing ever, but when the other option carries a 40-50 percent chance at someone losing their life, natural is the lesser of two evils. Plus, women who were under the twilight sedation were looking at a 10 day hospital stay that was not so nice, and getting an episiotomy back then was so much worse than it is today.

4Untrained Doctors Of The 1910’s

This is a very haunting, and disturbing picture of childbirth in the 1910’s. The first maternity hospital was not even created until 1914, which happens to be the same exact year the twilight anesthesia skyrocketed in popularity. During this period in time, 90 percent of doctors did not actually have any formal medical training or education. This is very gruesome to look at and know everything that this woman has been, and will go, through.

This woman is under twilight sleep, having received probably the worst episiotomy you could ever imagine from an untrained “doctor.” She had her baby ripped out of her and is being rewrapped up.

It does not end there either because she looking at 10 days in the hospital and a gruesome recovery period. Some women will remember exactly what happened during the twilight state and literally have night terror along with varying levels of psychological distress. I can’t imagine having a child back then.

3Right Out Of A Horror Movie

This photo is very eerie and haunting, maybe even downright creepy. This actually looks like something that you may have seen in a horror movie. When looking at the doctor in this picture, it reminds me of the deranged doctor from “House On Haunted Hill.” This picture came from Life magazine, which was popular from 1939 until sometime in the 1970’s. So, it’s safe to say this photo is from inside that time frame.

It’s a little unnerving that there is no one else in view. This leads me to believe that she may be in the twilight sleep, but during the later years of it, so in the 1950’s and above. Women were still being put to sleep for childbirth up until as late as the 1970’s. Being put to sleep is not always the best thing, especially for things such as childbirth because you want to be aware of what is going on. Regardless of what some people think, sometimes it really is better to be aware when possible.

2Upside Down

This picture is from the 1950’s when changes were very slowly making way. A doctor is seen, along with other medical personnel, holding up a baby that he just delivered. By this time in history, almost 90 percent of women were delivering babies in within hospitals. Unlike the 190’s, the doctors are all fully trained now. People were rallying against the use of twilight anesthesia due to the new found ways of going back to natural childbirth. Only, this time around, the natural childbirth was happening within hospitals.

Plus, the horrible conditions that women were dealing with while being under twilight were starting to see the light of day. Fetal ultrasounds were also developed during this period of time. It will still be some years before certain, unhealthy, practices are phased out completely; such as women being unconscious during childbirth.

1A Hospital Scene In Mexico 

This is a haunting delivery room scene for the past at the turn of the century 100 years ago. You can see that the mom-to-be is covered in some kind of wrap. By this picture alone, I am not positive if it is the lamb’s wool wrap from previous pictures or something entirely different. Some places wrapped up the moms more than others.

The mother’s typically always had their eyes covered with a cloth. Imagine going through birth and not being able to see anything, or to even be able to see your baby right after they are born. The doctors have on those bug-eyed goggles, which is enough to creep anyone out. The nurse is completely on the sidelines. This picture was said to be a hospital somewhere in Mexico. Different countries had different practices, much as they do today. I think even just how the doctors looked alone, would scare the child out of me; no need to go through the whole birthing process!

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