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Are you birthing in prehistoric times? - Due dates & birthing positions of old

No! You’re not birthing in prehistoric times, medieval times or even the mid 20th century.

This is the 21st century! So why do we put so much trust in archaic methods such as Naegele’s rule and the lithotomy position.

Neagele’s rule is named after Franz Naegele, a German obstetrician, who first proposed it in the early 19th century. Naegele's Rule assumes a regular menstrual cycle and is based on the following calculation:

  • Start with the first day of the woman's last menstrual period

  • Add one year

  • Subtract three months

  • Add seven days

The result of this calculation provides an estimated due date. This involves a big assumption that a woman's menstrual cycle is 28 days long, and that ovulation occurs on day 14 of the cycle. Therefore, adding 280 days (40 weeks) to the first day of the last menstrual period is thought to give an estimate of when the baby is likely to be born. (so much assumption!)

It's important to note that while Naegele's Rule is a quick and easy method, not all women have a 28-day menstrual cycle, and ovulation can vary, massively.

You are much more likely to be able to calculate this accurately yourself, using your own known (or estimated) dates! Always worth doing and keeping in mind towards the end of your pregnancy. The Lythotimy Position is a medical term used to describe a specific body position during birth (and some surgeries). In this position, the woman or birthing person is lying flat on their back with their legs raised and spread apart, often using stirrups to keep them in place.

There is known to be only one benefit of this position (for most people) and that is a better viewpoint for the obstetrician. The position is often said to have become so popular in the 17th century in the times of King Louis XIV of France who was thought to have had a fetish for watching women give birth, this is a much debated story and some believe it was an obstetrician of those times who actually changed the ‘norm’ for giving birth from the more familiar positions including kneeling, squatting, or sitting upright positions.

But either way... It was a bloke in the 17th century who, for his own benefit, normalised this lying down position for the rich and famous and therefore making it thought to be the ‘best’ position to give birth in going forward.

I am very pleased to say that we now know so so much more about the anatomy and physiology of birth. We know that lying on your back during labour is highly ineffective. Amongst other things it stops the pelvis and sacrum from flexing properly to make space to let baby through, but I’d say the very least we need to know is that it’s downright uncomfortable (for most) and if something is painful during birth, that is all the inspiration you should need:

If it feel right it probably is right - if it doesn’t, change something! So back to my original question: Why do we put so much trust in these examples of archaic methods?

You tell me! Is it because these methods are readily available, easy to use and ‘it’s just the way it’s always been’... maybe!

But what is clear is that you always have choices! You are ALWAYS in control of your pregnancy and birth because you ALWAYS have full autonomy over your own body (and your baby within).

So, do your research, take a course, hire a birth professional outside of ‘the system’ if you possibly can (such as an antenatal teacher, a Doula or an Independant Midwife) and make a birth plan that is right for you, because if you don’t, ‘the system’ already has a plan for you, and the chances of that being the right plan for you and your family are HIGHLY unlikely.


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