When Did Women Start Lying Down to Give Birth?

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woman laying down in a hospital bed in labor in lithotomy position

Although they may not know the term, any television viewer can recognize the lithotomy position: the feet-in-stirrups, hair-perfectly-blown-out posture women assume for giving birth.

It’s not a great position to be in even on routine checkup days, as anyone who has been asked to “scoot a little closer” and then somehow relax understands. But as a birthing position, the lithotomy position is even more controversial, having been linked to unnecessary interventions like inductions and C-sections.

So why did women start lying down to give birth in the first place?

One reason is that they couldn’t get up. Interventions like induction, fetal heart monitoring, and epidurals, all tether laboring women in place.

Although medical intervention is certainly a partial answer to the question, it’s not the oldest or most interesting one.

King Louis XIV

Painting of King Lous XIV
King Louis XIV

The king was…

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