Death in Childbirth

History and Representations


  • Marie-France Morel



Pregnancy portraits, childbirth mortality, funerary monuments, 18th century, 19th century


Childbirth has long been likened to a battle, with women enduring pain and danger akin to soldiers in combat. This comparison, rooted in ancient times, persisted through the centuries, with women who died in childbirth honored like fallen warriors. Even prominent figures like Thomas Jefferson drew parallels between childbirth and soldiering. Throughout history, childbirth was fraught with peril, accepted as part of divine will or fate. Tragic stories, such as Jane Austen's family losses, underscore the high toll childbirth took, especially in an era with limited contraception and medical understanding. Despite advancements, maternal mortality remained a significant concern well into the 20th century. Demographic records from the 18th and 19th centuries shed light on the prevalence of maternal deaths, highlighting the enduring risks women faced in bringing new life into the world.




How to Cite

Morel, M.-F. (2024) “Death in Childbirth: History and Representations”, Avisos de Viena. Vienna, Austria, 6, pp. 7–21. doi: 10.25365/adv.2024.6.8521.