Ambrose Paré was a surgeon and battlefield doctor to four French kings. He was a pioneer in the fields of pathology and battlefield medicine, but he also gave really terrible advice to pregnant women. Here are 10 tips for pregnant women from Ambrose Pare’s 16th century work, “On Monsters and Marvels.”
Don’t Use Your Imagination
Paré tells the tale of a woman who gave birth to a child covered in hair because she looked at a picture of John the Baptist dressed in animal skin while she conceived. Although if this was true, there would be a lot more babies who looked like cheap pillowcases.
Don’t Throw a Mouse at Your Teats
Paré and many medieval doctors thought that if you threw a cherry at a pregnant woman, you could “stain” the baby. Paré further explained that throwing a mouse or a frog on a woman’s teats could render the infant monstrous.
Don’t Show a Pregnant Woman Food
It’s a well-known medieval fact that pregnant women are delicate and dangerous. Paré advises against showing women any food that they can’t immediately eat, otherwise they might give birth to a baby that looks like a rind of cheese or a slab of bacon. This explains why my child looks like a bottle of Jack Daniels.
Don’t Look at a Two-Headed Woman
Paré retold a story of a two-headed beggar who was banned from Italy because she might scare pregnant women into giving birth to two-headed babies.
Don’t Get Too Much Seed in You
It’s true (or so medieval doctors believed): Too much man-stuff and you can have twins or triplets. Paré tells of a woman who had 20 babies. You could also have a baby with multiple limbs or conjoined twins. Too little seed and your baby could be missing a few limbs or fingers. No word on what the exact amount of seed is.
Don’t Get Pregnant While Mensturating
Paré claimed that children conceived while menstruating can turn into terrible monsters or be more inclined to the gout.
Don’t Eat Fruit
Paré attributed the eating of fruit and grasses to women giving birth to snake-like objects. He cautioned women to not let vanity take hold and to make sure they were good and plump so they could deliver healthy babies.
Don’t Cross Your Legs
Women who cross their legs too much during pregnancy or bind their pregnant bellies can twist their babies up or putrefy them.
Don’t Bathe Naked
According to medieval doctors, snakes could leave their “seed” in the water and impregnate women who bathe. It’s like the really old version of the hot tub myth.
You Can Get Pregnant with an Animal
Paré recounts many instances of human women giving birth to half-man/half-animal hybrids. He chalks some of this up to sodomy and atheism and the rest just up to the will of God. And here you were worried about having a healthy human child.
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