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View Full Version : Recovery from childbirth in Middle Ages - Any different?



mgencleyn
11-16-2010, 01:38 AM
So you've just given birth to a child with no real complications beyond what is typical for 9th century Europe. And soon you will have to run for your life. About how soon would a woman be able to do that?

maggi90w1
11-16-2010, 02:23 AM
Without no real complication like a tear or major bloodless or something? Pretty soon. My mum said she could a swept the clinic floor right after giving birth. Most woman at the hospital I worked were out and about around 24 to 36 hours after giving birth (and usually released on the third day).
Just keep in mind that she will bleed a lot (a lot!), so she needs to figure a way to take care of that while on the run.

whacko
11-16-2010, 02:39 AM
Hi mg,

It's possibly apocryphal - but even today, in less wealthy nations, women give birth in the morning and go back to work the fields in the afternoon.

A citation for this would be good, I know, but either me or the computer is being slow tonight!

mgencleyn
11-16-2010, 02:45 AM
A few days is perfect. I wanted her to be able to get going within a week. So that is quite doable, then.

Thanks!

waylander
11-16-2010, 02:58 AM
Is this her first child?

Mr Flibble
11-16-2010, 03:05 AM
For the first ten days or so there is a possibility of haemorrhage, so you need to take that into account. You might feel like you can do stiff - but you're pretty shagged. Especially if it's your first, because you're joints are still loose from the hormones (that relax your pelvis for birth) plus bleeding etc. First borth, more likely to have tears etc, which make running somethin quite far down on your list of priorities unless it's seriously f*ing serious.

When you say 'run' do you mean 'Taken on a wagon' or what? Because physically run? Not for a couple of weeks after my first (awkward presentation = lots of bruising etc, though no intervention other than the old episiotomy) but sooner after my second (popped out like a cork, plus I was used to it)

Still the very real threat of haemorrhage will limit you.

whacko
11-16-2010, 03:14 AM
You might feel like you can do stiff - but you're pretty shagged.

Isn't that something to do with the conception?:D

mgencleyn
11-16-2010, 03:56 AM
Is this her first child?
Yes.


For the first ten days or so there is a possibility of haemorrhage, so you need to take that into account. You might feel like you can do stiff - but you're pretty shagged. Especially if it's your first, because you're joints are still loose from the hormones (that relax your pelvis for birth) plus bleeding etc. First borth, more likely to have tears etc, which make running somethin quite far down on your list of priorities unless it's seriously f*ing serious.

When you say 'run' do you mean 'Taken on a wagon' or what? Because physically run? Not for a couple of weeks after my first (awkward presentation = lots of bruising etc, though no intervention other than the old episiotomy) but sooner after my second (popped out like a cork, plus I was used to it)

Still the very real threat of haemorrhage will limit you.
Run, as in physically on foot. Otherwise she's going to get killed.

maggi90w1
11-16-2010, 03:58 AM
though no intervention other than the old episiotomy
An episiotomy equals a second degree tear. That definitely counts as a complication. I thought we said no complications?

artemis31386
11-16-2010, 05:14 AM
An episiotomy equals a second degree tear. That definitely counts as a complication. I thought we said no complications?

I've worked labor and delivery. An episotomy is not a complication. It's actually a routine procedure in which a physician makes a minor incision to prevent tearing--because an incision is easier to repair than a tear.

That said, they didn't have episotomies in the 9th century. If there are no complications and this is the first child, its possible for the new mom to be up and moving around in a week, the caveat is that she is going to be experiencing some bleeding and will need to take care of that. As for running, she's probably going to need to amble slowly or take a wagon.

mgencleyn
11-16-2010, 05:29 AM
I've worked labor and delivery. An episotomy is not a complication. It's actually a routine procedure in which a physician makes a minor incision to prevent tearing--because an incision is easier to repair than a tear.

That said, they didn't have episotomies in the 9th century. If there are no complications and this is the first child, its possible for the new mom to be up and moving around in a week, the caveat is that she is going to be experiencing some bleeding and will need to take care of that. As for running, she's probably going to need to amble slowly or take a wagon.

Nope. She needs to be able to run. So, we're talking maybe more than a week then?

jaksen
11-16-2010, 05:35 AM
I don't know how I remember stuff like this, but Margaret Sanger (I think in her biography) claimed she had to get up out of bed a few hours after giving birth and make supper for her father and a group of workmen.

And didn't Pearl Buck write in some of her novels, that Chinese peasant women were expected to have a baby, then get back to work in the fields the same day?

Course they weren't running.

I've had three children. I think I would have been able to run (to save my life) not that long after giving birth.

blackrose602
11-16-2010, 05:36 AM
Not an expert, but this is a case where I'd say go with what you need for your story. I've never seen anything to indicate that a new mother is physically incapable of running even hours after the birth (as in, would literally collapse to the floor as would be the case with a broken leg or severe heart condition or something). Would it hurt? Possibly. Would it put her at increased risk for complications? Possibly. But if it's a life or death situation, I'm thinking adrenaline would kick in and she'd do what she had to do. My vote is make sure she's taking care of the bleeding and have her go for it.

Medievalist
11-16-2010, 06:11 AM
She would need something to staunch residual blood flow. A typical lower or lower middle class woman used to hard work and in good health with a normal to easy pregnancy and delivery, sure. Women, especially of the peasant class, would return to agricultural labor very soon; there were more social restrictions about birth than physical ones.

She might be more likely to be worried about the Christian religious requirements around child birth; there were an awful lot of religious beliefs, and folklore, around birth, child bed, and the spiritual risks associated with birth and delivery. You might Google or research "churching."

mgencleyn
11-16-2010, 06:36 AM
Ooh. Very useful. Thank you for that.

Duchessmary
11-16-2010, 07:40 AM
IF the birth was uncomplicated, she should be able to run for her life, with padded protection, if you know what I mean. Still, there is some bleeding and loss of fluids during childbirth.
Speaking from my experience, I had an emergency C section and couldn't move for a day or two.

Kathie Freeman
11-16-2010, 08:49 PM
I'm thinking she would stuff a lot of rags into her underwear (assuming she wears underwear) and run like hell. It will be more believable if the baby was small (6 lbs or less).

maggi90w1
11-16-2010, 09:29 PM
I've worked labor and delivery. An episotomy is not a complication. It's actually a routine procedure in which a physician makes a minor incision to prevent tearing--because an incision is easier to repair than a tear.
I know what a episiotomy is. It's not a minor incision (as I wrote before, it equals a second degree tear) and where I worked it was listed under complications. It's also not a routine procedure anymore and only done in case of an emergency.
Although that's not the point. If mgencleyn character would have a cut or a tear her life would be in serious danger and going on the run would totally be out of the question. We have to assume that she sustained no injury, so IdiotsRUs case is not applicable here.

stormie
11-16-2010, 11:24 PM
Two things: First, after childbirth a woman starts to lactate. Back in the 9th century, women nursed their babies or had a wet nurse to do it. If she's not taking the baby with her on the run,then you have to find out how'd they stop the lactation. (Usually the mother's milk dries up after several days of non-nursing, but the breasts are painful unless she expresses (sp? proper word?!) it.

Also, as for the bleeding, by the seventh day it might not be as bad, so she'd just put a lot of clean rags in her underwear. With a normal delivery, she'd be able to run, but not far without having to rest a bit.

Maryn
11-16-2010, 11:31 PM
I had normal deliveries twice. The first one, I made dinner after delivering an eight-pound baby around midnight the night before. Not a complicated dinner, but a hot meal on the table. (My husband was in law school and had a final exam that afternoon.)

The second delivery, a ten-pounds-plus baby, I was home and back to caring for a toddler 12 hours after giving birth.

As parents know, there's some bleeding afterward, and I was kind of tired, but I could certainly have speed-walked for my life and would not have needed a wagon. The episiotomy stitches caused discomfort but did not interfere with my ability to go about my normal tasks, including picking up the twenty-five pound toddler many times an hour.

I think the point is that women in this time period were far fitter than many women now, through the physical work they did on a daily basis, and that a healthy women's recovery time to return to her work--or to running for her life--might be far shorter than modern women would guess. Society did not coddle women; their work was too essential for them to be granted much of a pass due to childbirth.

Would she be at her best? No. Would she be able to slog on, because her life depended on it? Of course, even though she might be in some pain and bone-weary. Might she hemorrhage? Sure, but if she's running for her life, that's a risk she'd take, if she even knows about it.

Maryn, build for havin' babies

mgencleyn
11-16-2010, 11:34 PM
Okay. I'm not too worried about the bleeding as things turn out. She'll be safe after maybe an hour running in spurts and hiding, and can then see to her personal health. She will take the baby with her. And thus it looks like the general consensus lets me get away with running in about a week.

I really appreciate this, everyone.

shaldna
11-17-2010, 02:58 PM
From my own experience - i had a natural birth with no painkillers and a small amount of tearage wich was not stiched - immediately after the birth I was knackerd, could barely stand. But a couple of hours later I was fine, I was on my feet and on the move. I was sore, and it stung like hell, but I could do it. Once the numbness wore off it started to get harder to move, more painful and that slowed me down.