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What to Avoid During Pregnancy in Medieval Times

A lot of medical practices that we observe now can be traced back to the past. We are fortunate that we have access to modern medicine and pregnant women get the care they need without the risk of infection, worse death. The middle ages is known as the Renaissance, where artists, philosophers and doctors have cooked up many ways to make living easier. Some of it may seem mad but believe it or not, people actually observed it. Here is a list of what to avoid during pregnancy.

Michele Savonarola, court physician of the powerful Este family of Ferrara in Italy wrote a book called De Regime Pregnantium. It contained advice of food and drinks that should and should not be taken during pregnancy. Like physicians today, Savonarola believed that what the mother eats will greatly affect her unborn child. He not only dedicated his life and expertise in taking care of the pregnant noblewomen of Ferrara but he also thought of medical ways to ensure the health of both mother and child, most especially in making sure that the baby would be male.

Savonarola advised that mothers consume dry food. He further stated that it was best to avoid drinking cold water because it is not good for the fetus and would generate girls. Instead he advised that moms drink red wine instead. Furthermore, consumption of warm and dry food will remove the inferior qualities of women and shape the fetus to become a strong and healthy male.

There could be strong intellectual women at that time who rolled their eyes at him; but in a world dominated by men, their opinions hardly matter. Members of the nobility would rejoice in the coming of a son but not so much as daughters.

He also advised mothers not to overindulge in the same kind of food because it risks miscarriage. Fruits like the pomegranate, though sweet is not advisable because it is highly acidic which can upset the stomach. It would be better to mix it with wine or drink is as a juice.

That was the practice in Italy, but what about other places? What to avoid during pregnancy when you’re a noble woman in England during the middle ages? In the late stages of pregnancy, noble women would go into confinement. This is like going back inside the womb where women are shut in a room, shutters closed, drapes drawn and a crucifix so she can pray. She is attended by servants and only female members of her family. Although, there were times that her husband may come visit her.  The idea of a confinement is to make sure that the woman is relaxed. She will only come out after 40 days of giving birth. She will then be “churched” to cleanse her.  There is a big party to welcome her back to society, perform her duties as wife and back to breeding babies again.

These practices and medical advice may all seem mad to us modern people but this paved the way to what we practice today. Crazy as it may seem, some of these food, drinks and practices make sense.  Hopefully, you did find what to avoid during pregnancy in medieval times insightful or even perhaps an entertaining read.

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