Since the medicalization of childbirth, women have been pushing on their backs or in a semi-sitting position with their legs raised or pushed back or out. Many childbirth educators have often frowned on these positions, as they are believed not to be ideal for the baby.
With these alternatives, women essentially had more control over their childbirth as they were not restricted to lie on their backs like it’s seen in modern hospitals.
Here are some of these ancient traditional birthing positions:
Human beings before the invention of chair-like toilets evacuated waste in the squatting position. When giving birth, squatting is believed to be a healthier option because it aligns the rectum and anus in a near vertical position.
There are illustrations of women squatting to give birth among some ancient African tribes like the
Egyptian carving above, where the woman is squatting to push. Her knees are closer together and she is seen bracing herself on helpers and a furniture for support.
Health experts to date say squatting opens the outlet of the pelvis to enable easier passage of the baby and prevent perineal tears. Some women argue that squatting enables them to push with the right muscles.
Women in ancient times often squatted while working in the fields, hence this position generally gave them a much quicker and easier birth.
This is similar to the squatting position but this time the mother is on her knees instead of her feet, and she is almost close to the ground. Ancient art has been created to depict women from various cultures kneeling during childbirth, either on both knees or asymmetrically with one knee up and the other down.
The above illustration is from ancient Egypt, where an Egyptian royal is found in the kneeling position and also being given some form of assistance to facilitate delivery.
Hands and knees position
Other cultures used the hands and knees position which some health experts till now say relieves back pressure and allow the baby to turn to an easier position.
The illustration below shows an African-American woman in the 1800s giving birth while kneeling on the floor and leaning on a chair.
It is said that the furniture could help her rock back and forth during delivery.
Even though many women stand and walk during labour today, they ultimately move to the lying position to push the baby out.
But within ancient cultures like the Western African tribe of the Wakambas, the mother gave birth while standing and is usually supported by three other women as shown in the illustration above.
This practice was also inherent in some cultures in Angola.