Diorama in the Science Museum illustrating childbirth in the 1860s.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
This interior scene depicts a 19th century childbirth in the home. A doctor and nurse can be seen administering an anaesthetic to the woman in labour. For centuries, pregnancy and childbirth were women's busines and medical help was sought only if the birth was very difficult. During the 18th century a large number of surgeon-apothecaries started to attend the births of richer patients. A number of hospitals and charities had been founded in the 18th century, but throughout the 19th century most births continued to take place at home because fatal illneses such as puerperal sepsis were common in hospitals. Anaesthesia was used from the 1850s to relieve the pain of childbirth. Made in 1979 by Derek and Patricia Freeborn Ltd in East Horsley, Surrey.