Childbirth in ancient Rome: From traditional folklore to obstetrics


  • DOI: 10.1111/j.1479-828X.2007.00691.x

: Dr Don Todman, Brisbane Clinic, 79 Wickham Terrace, Brisbane, Qld 4000, Australia. Email:


In ancient Rome, childbirth was a hazardous event for both mother and child with high rates of infant and maternal mortality. Traditional Roman medicine centred on folklore and religious practices, but with the development of Hippocratic medicine came significant advances in the care of women during pregnancy and confinement. Midwives or obstetrices played an important role and applied rational scientific practices to improve outcomes. This evolution from folklore to obstetrics was a pivotal point in the history of childbirth.