The delivery chair

The delivery chair
1580. Childbirth chair or seat, illustration included in the book entitled ‘Human childbirth, which contains very useful and usual remedies for difficult childbirth in women, with many other secrets pertaining to it’ by Francisco Núñez

The delivery chair

IV The passage into the world

 

In 1513 the German Eucharius Rösslin published a treatise on childbirth, Der Ronsegarten, (The Rose Garden) where he explained the use of the birthing chair. In Spain, this technique was also known. Francisco Núñez, in Libro intitulado del parto humano, translated the Rösslin work in 1580 and described the chairs, where the woman in labor had to sit when and when and how to use them by the midwives in charge of «swing the chair from one side to the other» (fol. 28v-29v). It was also useful for the expulsion of the placenta (pares or secundinas, in Spanish) (fol. 32r). However, this practice was not very widespread, because as Juan Alonso de los Ruices y Fontecha emphasized in his Dies privilegios para mujeres preñadas (Alcalá, Luis Martínez Grande, 1606), «I have never seen it anywhere» and «they (women in labor) have a gentleman still behind them and throw their arms around his neck».

Moreover, this technique had detractors, among them the King of Spain. On June 14, 1588, Philip II, in an affectionate letter, congratulated his daughter Catalina Micaela, Duchess of Savoy, on the birth of her son Manuel Filiberto (on April 17) and for the successful delivery that he attributed to the use of a stretcher (camilla) and not of delivery chair. In fact, in a revealing text, he attributed the death of his first wife, María Manuela de Portugal, in the delivery of Prince Charles, to the use of the chair, «a very dangerous thing», while his next wives, Isabel de Valois and Ana de Austria «always gave birth on a stretcher», «the safest thing» (in Bouza, F., Carta de Felipe II a sus hijas, Madrid, Akal, 2008, pp. 156-157), especially since the chair could cause more bleeding. [Jesús María Usunáriz Garayoa]