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Great Bellied Women

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Great Bellied Women

Pregnancy and Childbirth

God was praised whenever a mother and child safely passed through the perils of childbirth, but many children and the women who bore them did not survive. The skills of a good midwife were crucial to housewives, who were nearly always pregnant. Even though midwives rarely knew Latin (the language of medicine) and were denied much of the knowledge available to male physicians, they drew on a long oral tradition. By the 17th century, midwives and the women they served could consult published texts in English. There they could find instructions on the care of mother and infant, advice on choosing a mate and insuring the birth of a male child,"antidotes to venerie," and the methods to avoid having a child at all.



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James Wolveridge. Speculum matricis; or, the expert midwives handmaid. London, 1671

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