Childbirth Miracles in Swedish Medieval Miracle Collections
Anders, Fröjmark (Linnaeus University, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, School of Cultural Sciences)
Journal of the History of Sexuality: Vol. 21, Issue: 2 (2012)
The chance of dying in pregnancy or childbirth was very real for medieval women, and still is in many Third World countries. In Medieval Catholic Western Europe, including Scandinavia, these risks, and the absence of medically schooled persons who could give efficient help, led many women to turn to the saints for intercession. The evidence produced by miracle accounts that this practice has generated allows us to look into the bedchambers of otherwise unknown medieval women, suffering the pains of extended labor or giving birth to seemingly lifeless children.
From their stories we may learn much about the situation at childbirth, and not least about the circle of women which normally surrounded the woman giving birth. The stories supplement information that may be gathered from other sources and shed light on questions that have been debated in earlier research, such as the professionalization of midwifery and the presence or non-presence of men and/or unwed women at childbirth. As a whole, miracle tales provide an interesting source material for many aspects of medieval everyday life, not least because it is—compared to other sources—more balanced in terms of gender.