Birth Insights from Ancient Depictions

South Indian Birth Carving

In the vast tapestry of human history, few subjects evoke as much awe and contemplation as the act of childbirth. Artists throughout the ages, from ancient Egyptian carvings to illustrations and statues of Native American tribes, have endeavored to capture the essence of this profound experience, immortalizing the raw beauty and sheer strength of birthing bodies.

These artistic pieces not only celebrate the miracle of life but also provide valuable insights into alternative birthing practices, challenging the prevailing cultural conditioning that often depicts birth solely in laying down or semi-sitting positions. By portraying childbirth in diverse and empowering ways, art has the potential to reshape societal perceptions, fostering a more positive and inclusive understanding of this natural process.

Lessons from the Past


In this ancient Greek relief, a woman is shown squatting on a birth stool with arms around helpers on each side while the midwife catches the baby from below.
Ancient Greek Birth Relief

Yet, beyond their aesthetic beauty, these artistic depictions offer valuable lessons for modern mothers. Through studying ancient artwork, we unearth a wealth of knowledge about traditional birthing practices, including the prevalence of alternative birthing positions like squatting and kneeling. These positions, favored by many cultures throughout history, offer benefits such as increased pelvic room and reduced pain—a wisdom passed down through generations.


A Call to Reclaim Control


South Indian Birth Carving
South Indian Birth Carving

In embracing the lessons of the past, we empower women to reclaim control over their birthing experiences. By challenging conventional hospital practices and advocating for the use of alternative positions, we honor the strength and resilience of birthing bodies. Just as our ancestors embraced birth as a natural and empowering process, so too can we learn from their wisdom and forge a new path forward.

Documenting Doula: Bridging Past and Present


Mimbres Pueblo Tribe Pottery Illustration of Birth
Mimbres Pueblo Tribe Pottery Illustration of Birth

At the forefront of this movement is Documenting Doula, a pioneering organization that merges the worlds of birth documentation and art. Through photography and videography, they capture the raw beauty and strength of the birthing process, offering a modern interpretation of ancient traditions. By honoring the diversity of birthing experiences and celebrating the power of women’s bodies, they inspire a new generation to embrace birth with confidence and courage.

Conclusion: A Journey of Discovery


In this Egyptian carving, the woman is squatting to push, while bracing herself on helpers and furniture of some sort. Notice her knees are closer together than in the other pictures. Many childbirth educators have observed that the back half of the pelvic outlet in the squatting position actually increases more when the knees are a bit closer together than farther apart.
Egyptian Birth Relief

As we journey through the annals of history, we uncover a profound truth: that birth is not merely a physical event, but a deeply spiritual and transformative journey. Through art, we learn from the wisdom of our ancestors, gaining insights that have the power to shape our own birthing experiences. By embracing birth as a natural and empowering process, we honor the legacy of those who came before us and pave the way for a future where every woman can birth with dignity and strength.

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Erin Milne

Birth Photographer & Videographer

Hi, I’m based in Englewood, Colorado, and love to combines my skills as a doula with my passion for photography and filmmaking.


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