What We Can Learn From A Birth Girdle

Photo by Otto Norin on Unsplash

What Is It?

A birth girdle is a strip of parchment, in this case sheep’s parchment, with prayers and religious iconography written all over it. St. Margaret iconography and other birth-related appeals would be used.

New Findings

This particular girdle was made in the late 1400’s and barely survived King Henry VIII’s destruction of the monasteries in the 1500’s. It seemed to be used in secret for a few decades after that.

The Basic Idea

It was originally believed to be put under the woman as she gave birth, but the new evidence suggests it was used as a literal belt right by the skin in the last months of pregnancy. It lacked the amniotic fluid and blood that would have been present if it had been put under someone in labor. The skin cells and sweat suggested that, at most, it was laid gently over a woman’s stomach as she went into labor.

The Take Away

Did you know that the mortality rate for birth was at least one in eight? Women died in childbirth at a horrific rate before the 20th century. Clearly, these birth girdles or any of the other hacks tried didn’t help much. If renting a piece of paper could preserve you, that rate would be much lower.



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Vivian Yongewa

Vivian Yongewa

Writes for content farms and fun. Has an AU historical mystery series on Kindle.