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14 Facts About Childbirth That'll Make You Blink Fast And Say, "What?"

Yes, it's true: The world's fastest labor was just two minutes!

1. The quickest labor ever β€” or surely pretty close to it β€” was only two minutes long!

2. On the other end of the spectrum, the longest labor lasted a whopping 75 days.

This one needs a little explaining: In 2012 a Polish mother, Joanna Krzysztonek, was pregnant with triplets when one of the triplets was born prematurely and died during the fifth month of the pregnancy. That, according to doctors, was the official start of Krzysztonek's labor, but to give the other two babies a chance at survival, Krzysztonek was put on bed rest with her feet above her head (to reduce pressure on the cervix).

It worked, and 75 days later twins Iga and Ignacy were born at 32 weeks.

3. On average, though, new mothers labor around six and a half hours while moms who have previously given birth labor one to two hours less.


Different factors can change a mom's labor time, but the records of two minutes and 75 days will be pretty hard to beat, no matter the situation!

4. The first written record of a successful C-section β€” where the mom and baby both survived β€” was all the way back in 1500.

Alessandro Beneditti's De Re Medica

C-sections have been performed for thousands of years, but until the last century or so they were almost exclusively done to save the baby when the mother was dead or dying.

The C-section performed in 1500 was different. A woman had labored for several days without giving birth when her husband, a sow gelder (someone who spays pigs for a living), performed the C-section. He likely succeeded because his career in animal husbandry made him familiar with anatomy.

5. It is possible to have an orgasm β€” or "birthgasm" β€” while giving birth.

A French study found that it happens less than 1% of the time, so it's not all that common. Nevertheless, it can be triggered by, among other things, the increased hormones during pregnancy.

6. You've probably heard the Netherlands referred to as "the home birth capital of Europe," but home births there have been seriously on the decline, tumbling from 70% in 1970 to 30% in the year 2005 to about 13% today.

7. Managing pain during childbirth was largely taboo until Queen Victoria inhaled chloroform while giving birth to her eighth child, Prince Leopold, in 1853.

Public Domain

The chloroform was administered by groundbreaking physician John Snow, who was criticized for it by the Lancet, the influential medical journal. Of course, pain management during labor was soon normalized.

8. Pain relief was normalized so fast, in fact, that toward the end of the 19th century American doctors were giving women heroin to help with the pain of childbirth!


They didn't know exactly how dangerous heroin was back then, but still...heroin!

9. The risk of dying during pregnancy and childbirth was so high during the Renaissance that women immediately wrote their wills upon learning they were pregnant.


They also ate special foods and acquired amulets said to help keep them safe.

10. Today giving birth is much, much safer, but it's not without risk β€” and more women in the United States die in childbirth than in other wealthy nations.

According to a multi-national study by the Commonwealth Fund, the US had the highest death rate out of 11 wealthy countries, seeing 14 women die every 100,000 births. Sweden had the lowest rate, with 4 maternal deaths per 100,000 births.

11. In 19th-century Austria, 25–30% of women who gave birth in hospitals died of infections until a doctor, Ignaz Semmelweis, realized it was because student doctors were going from the dissecting room (dealing with cadavers) directly to the maternity ward WITHOUT WASHING THEIR HANDS.

Semmelweis made the student doctors wash their hands in a solution of chlorinated lime before each exam, and the death rate dropped dramatically. Semmelweis's discovery is a big reason hand-washing is now commonplace in hospitals.

12. In the Middle Ages women in labor were expected to make cakes β€” called "groaning cakes," likely because the women groaned while making them.

13. Water births may be thousands of years old β€” Egyptian pharaohs were said to have been born in shallow water β€” but the first water birth on record in modern times happened in France in 1805.

Comedy Central

A mother had labored so long and with such difficulty that she was put into a warm bath. Once submerged her labor accelerated, she started to push, and her baby was born in the water.

14. Lastly, some women give birth to babies STILL INSIDE THE AMNIOTIC SAC. These are called "en caul births." You can see an Instagram video of one here, but if you're squeamish you might want to skip it because it'll definitely have you like:


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