What was childbirth like in ancient civilizations?
To the Egyptians, childbirth was sacred. The midwives were instructed at the temple’s schools and were called “divine mothers”.
Isis, wife of Osiris, was the Goddess of Childbirth, and those who wished for protection took offerings to her temple.
At the beginning, there were rooms to give birth in the temples that later became special temples, in the ptolomaic period, “Mammisi” or birth-houses.
These place had a sitting chair, composed of three stones, the “stones of coming to this world”, where the woman kneeled down or sat to give birth. That “stones of coming to this world” already existed 3.000 years before Christ.
On the bas-reliefs carved on the temples the hieroglyph corresponding to “give birth” was deciphered. On the Hermonthis (today called Erment) temple, consacrated to the Menthou god, today destroyed, there was a relief of “Cleopatra giving birth to Cesarion”, the child that was born after her affair with Julius Caesar. The queen was represented kneeling down, with her buttocks on her heels. A woman supported her with her arms, and there were two others, one at each side, ready to help. The main midwife was also kneeling in front of Cleopatra, receiving Cesarion and passing the newborn child to the woman that is behind her.
Hieroglyph of Giving Birth
In other bas-reliefs of the temples of Deir El Bahari and of Luxor, the queen appears sitting on a chair and the “divine mother” is kneeling down, passing the newborn to the assistants.
After the birth, the Egyptians had the habit of giving purgatives to the mother. They gave her castor-oil with beer. The casto-oil stimulates the production of milk.