Having a Baby


What is like to have a baby? And has it always been the same?
This exhibition draws on real-life stories to explore the history of pregnancy and giving birth from the 1890s to the present.
Having a baby in the 1890s was very dangerous, and it was common for women to die during childbirth. One in seven babies also died before they reached their first birthday. Women who survived would probably have many babies in their lifetime; the average family had six children but many women had more. They gave birth at home, helped by a relative or neighbour who had no formal qualifications.
Forceps, used to pull the baby out of the birth canal, were invented at the end of the 1800s and saved many lives, but could cause injury and infection. Before the 1950s, when gas and air apparatus was developed, most women in Britain gave birth without any form of pain relief.
As well as exploring the history of childbirth, this exhibition also highlights the major improvements that have taken place over the years. By 1990, the average family had just two children and most women today give birth in hospital under the watchful eye of trained midwives and doctors. They have modern pain relief and skilled help if things go wrong. Death in childbirth is now extremely rare.