Contraception and Abortion within the Center Ages

Have been contraceptives and different technique of household limitation corresponding to abortion, infanticide, and baby abandonment practised in medieval Western Europe? If that’s the case, what treatments and strategies of contraception have been used, to what extent, and have been they profitable? Early analysis into the subject concluded that contraception was nearly unknown within the Center Ages and that medieval folks didn’t have a ‘contraceptive mentality’.

Nonetheless, more moderen investigations have produced a plethora of writing which clearly demonstrates that medieval society not solely knew about numerous types of contraception and abortifacients; they used them to such a level that medical texts, church doctrine and the frequent literature of the time are strewn with references to their use. Paperwork are suffering from contraceptive recipes and strategies and comprise warnings and prohibitions towards sure herbs, many of those originating in antiquity.

Up to date analysis into the historical past of human fertility management has due to this fact ceased to ask when contraception turned frequent place and efficient, and as an alternative questions how household limitation was practised previous to the eighteenth century.

The concept and observe of controlling the variety of youngsters conceived and born has been employed throughout all cultures by time, though the strategies and efficacy range.

Beginning in antiquity, there’s indeniable proof that household planning strategies have been utilized in Historical Greece, Rome, Persia and Egypt.

Aristotle’s Historical past of Animals and Pliny’s Pure Historical past have been each works used extensively by Roman and Greek society as medical texts from the fourth century B.C. and comprise references to the organic, reproductive and scientific understandings of the time. From the fifth century B.C The Hippocratic faculty produced the earliest medical texts which targeted on feminine well being corresponding to The Nature of Ladies and Illnesses of Ladies and point out using a potion (misy) which induced short-term sterility.

Dioscorides of Cilicia’s Materia Medicais a compilation of Greek medical data which included gynaecological data, just like Pliny’s work, and was obtainable from the primary century A.D. His work includesa variety of contraceptive and abortifacient recipes together with potions that girls might drink (willow leaves in water, floor barrenwort in wine) in addition to pessaries to impede conception (peppermint juice, cedar gum).

Soranus of Ephesus, a second century A.D Roman medico, wrote the Gynecology which turned the primary information for contraceptive and gynaecological data within the Roman Empire and was disseminated and used within the East after which later once more in medieval Europe.

In his Gynecology underneath, ‘Whether or not One Should Make Use of Abortion and Contraceptives and How?’, Soranus famous the distinction between the 2:

A contraceptive differs from an abortive, for the primary doesn’t let conception happen, whereas the latter destroys what has been conceived. Allow us to, due to this fact name the one ‘abortive’ (phthorion) and the opposite ‘contraceptive’ (atokion). And an ‘expulsive’ (ekbolion) some folks say is synonymous with an abortive; others, nonetheless, say that there’s a distinction as a result of an explusive doesn’t imply medicine however shaking and leaping. And since it’s safer to stop conception from going down than to destroy the fetus, we will now first discourse upon such prevention’.


Soranus additionally suggested that to stop conception from going down,that in important second in coitus a lady ought to maintain her breath and draw herself away just a little in order that ‘the seed will not be hurled too deeply into the cavity of the uterus’.[

His medical treatise also warns that the treatments to induce an abortion may cause congestion of the head, stomach upsets and vomiting.

One method for abortion includes ‘violent’ exercise, carrying things which are too heavy, diuretic potions, hot baths of linseed, fenugreek, wormwood and marshmallow and internal douching with rue juice, honey or iris oil.


Later works such as Oribaso’s Books for Eunapius and Medicine by Aëtios of Amdia, are medical texts which are heavily based on Soranus and Dioscorides’ texts and are evidence that contraceptive and gynaecological knowledge was passed on and updated throughout the ages.

Oribaso lists potions of fern root and willow leaf as contraceptives to be used after coitus and the description also indicates that it may also have been taken as an abortifacient, as well as vaginal concoctions to take such as the juice of wild mint.

Aëtios’ work recommends gallnut, pomegranate and alum mixed with vinegar or brine as a spermicidal recipe for preventing conception and mentions the use of contraceptive amulets.[

The reintroduction of this ancient information from Arabic to Latin led to an increase in gynaecological knowledge in the high middle ages in Western Europe.

When looking at whether medieval society had effective population control methods, Karras and Riddle argue that the use of restraint and celibacy does not fully explain the low birth replacement rate and progressive population decline. The fluctuations in population levels (exclusive of food supply issues, war and plague) cannot be understood simply in terms of individuals restricting their sexual activity or the age at marriage increasing. Further, it can be argued that as the low births rates and population figures do not correspond with the introduction of Christianity and prohibitions on sexual behaviour, effective methods of population control such as contraception and abortifacients must have been used by medieval societies to reduce the birth rate.

J.C Russell notes that the birth rate in Western Europe during the eleventh to thirteenth centuries was 4.2 per cent with a death rate of 3.6 per cent, but that during the fourteenth to fifteenth centuries the birth rate was 3.9, with a death rate of 4.1 per cent.[

This figure would produce an increase in population with the first figure and a decline in the second figure but also indicates that there was no major alteration in the birth rate.

This may be due to the use of family planning methods. Non-procreative intercourse such as anal or oral sex has also been suggested as a possible reason for the lower birth rate in some demographic studies.

It has long been presumed that ancient and medieval women had special knowledge of controlling their fertility and limiting the number of children they bore.

Women were therefore the main targets of campaigns to cease and prohibit the use of contraceptives and abortifacients. Whilst husbands were chastised by St Bernadino for sexual behaviour ‘against nature and against the proper mode of matrimony’ ie. contraceptive practices, he made clear that the worst offenders were the women who practised contraception:

And I say this to the women who are the cause that the children that they have conceived are destroyed; worse, who also are among those who arrange that they cannot conceive; and if they have conceived, they destroy them in the body. You (to whom this touches, I speak) are more evil than murderers.

Fertility control was therefore viewed by the church as a ‘female question’ as it was generally women who were required to take the potions, pessaries, amulets and herbs to prevent conception from taking place and it was therefore assumed that it was taken at their initiative.

In 1150 Clemence, wife of Robert II, the Count of Flanders, having produced three children, chose to not to have any more and reportedly used the ‘arte muliebri’ to prevent further pregnancies.

The De secretis mulierum, an anonymous medical text covering female gynecological issues, is therefore one example of the ‘secret’ fertility information that women were supposed to know (despite it usually being attributed to a male writer). The experience and knowledge of women in regards to contraception and childbirth was also tentatively acknowledged by Albertus Magnus who wrote that ‘much belief should be given to trustworthy women who have borne many children’.

In the thirteenth century, Michael Scot’s The Secrets of Nature also said that there were many things a woman could take which would prevent conception and that pregnant women should avoid those things.

Other writers, including an author of a thirteenth century confessor’s manual, Thomas of Chobham, also asserted that women had many ways to conceal the result of illicit affairs and to spare themselves the rigours and danger of pregnancy and childbirth.

Although written by men, these ‘secret’ books indicate that there was a belief that women had superior knowledge and access to methods of limiting pregnancies and their family size during the medieval period.

Women’s health and gynaecological care prior to the early modern period has mostly been perceived as ‘women’s business’ until recently.

Monica Green asserts that women and female midwives have generally been assumed to be the main providers of medical care and advice to female patients and in particular focused on contraception, abortion and pregnancy related issues.

She states that although the majority of medieval medical texts were written by men and for men, female experience and collective knowledge of gynaecological information remained and was transmitted informally between women.

Her study makes a distinction between female medical practitioners (who cared for all aspects of health) and midwives whose focus was on reproduction and pregnancy. Green finds that although women were underrepresented in the medical profession during the Middle Ages, there were female physicians, surgeons, barber-surgeons, apothecaries and any number of unrecorded empirical healers who treated both men and women.

The research conducted by Danielle Jacquart and Ernest Wickersheimer, which focused on the 7,647 medical practitioners recorded in France from the twelfth to fifteenth centuries, found that 121 of them were female. Of this number, 44 were categorised in terms which translate to ‘midwife’ and whose occupation was gynaecologically based.

The evidence of recorded female medical practitioners in England is considerably less, although Robert Gottfried claims that there were about 28 women medical practitioners in his survey of doctors in England from 1340-1530.

Green notes that this particular research doesn’t include midwives, however another study conducted by C.H Talbot and E.A Hammond found 8 female medical workers from the Anglo-Saxon times to the beginning of the sixteenth century.

Again, it must be recognised that many female healers and midwives were not legitimated by formal licensing, yet continued to practise.

The case of the French female doctor, Perretta Petone, who in 1410 was jailed on charges of practising medicine without a license is an example of this. Petone questioned why she was being singled out for review and examination in regards to her qualifications when there were already many female medical practitioners in Paris ‘of whom nobody demands anything’ ie licensing.

There were no legal requirements to be licensed until this time and there is evidence that women continued to practice medicine without it. It was not until the later medieval period that there was a focus on licensing ‘women’s work’ or midwifery (as opposed to general medical practitioners who happened to be female) and it appears to focus primarily on the midwives moral character, rather than their medical skills.[35]

The licensing of girls healers additionally offers weight to the argument that not solely have been there doubtless many unrecorded medieval feminine empirics who supplied gynaecological recommendation but additionally that girls (although to a a lot lesser quantity) turned medico professionals.

A research of medical licenses in Naples from 1273 to 1410 present that 24 have been granted to feminine surgeons, 13 of which have been licensed to practise on ladies solely, and remedy was not simply restricted to gynaecological points.


Essentially the most well-known feminine medical practitioners of the medieval interval are the muliers Salernitanae of Salerno.

These ladies are reported to not solely practise drugs but additionally wrote their very own treatises and probably the most controversial and debated feminine medical author and physician was Trota or Trotula. She is claimed to have existed within the eleventh or twelfth century and there’s appreciable debate as as to whether the works ascribed to her have been written by a feminine or have been merely dictated and even have been a group of labor written by a person (or males) for the aim of medical practise.

There are a number of variations of Trota’s treatise obtainable. Monica Inexperienced’s translation of the Trotula additionally states that the rationale the handbook was written (in keeping with the writer/s) as a result of:

…ladies are by nature weaker than males and since they’re most steadily stricken in childbirth, illnesses fairly often abound in them particularly across the organs dedicated to the work of Nature. Furthermore, ladies, from the situation of their fragility, out of disgrace and embarrassment don’t dare reveal their anguish over their illnesses (which occur in a non-public place) to a doctor.

The implication of the passage being that Trota wrote her medical treatise for ladies on account of their pure modesty in presenting to a male doctor with their feminine gynaecological points. In some variations she claims to even have written the treatise in order that if ladies are:

…ashamed for worry of reproof in instances to return and of publicity by discourteous males who love ladies just for bodily pleasure and for evil gratification…. And so, to help ladies, I intend to put in writing of assist their secret maladies in order that one girl might support one other in her sickness and never reveal her secrets and techniques to discourteous males.


In Rowland’s translation (from the Sloane manuscript 2463), the treatise is particularly directed at English ladies and the rationale for writing it within the vernacular is said;

As a result of whomen of oure tonge donne bettyr rede and undyrstande thys langage than eny different and eury whoman lettyrde rede hit to different unlettryd and assist hem and conceyle hem in her maledyes, withowtyn shewyng right here dysese to man, I’ve thys drauyn and wryttyn in englysh.

These translations point out that there might have been a robust presence of feminine data and knowledge in gynacolgical practises. The works included details about abortifacients and emmenogogues and are a sign that feminine data on household limitation was current, though formally recorded to a a lot lesser extent.

With regard to different strategies of contraception within the medieval interval, quite a lot of approaches have been recorded.

There may be proof to counsel magical amulets have been used to stop conception, though the medical texts range on their effectiveness.

Soranus doesn’t put a lot retailer of their use, nonetheless, whilst late because the sixth century A.D, Aëtios listed utilizing the tooth of a kid, henbane seed diluted in mare’s milk and carried in stags pores and skin as particular contraceptive charms.

He additionally advocated utilizing the testicles of cats in a container connected to the navel and elements of a lioness to be carried in an ivory receptacle as efficacious contraceptive strategies.

The ‘magical’ component of this stuff reveals that historical and medieval society nonetheless adopted folklore in selecting to restrict household dimension and that church doctrine on contraception (although essential), was not all the time adopted in household planning.
Coitus Interruptus

The extent and use of coitus interruptus or onanism as a contraceptive practise has brought about a lot debate amongst historians. The literal translation of onanism from the Bible pertains to Onan arousing God’s displeasure by disobeying his commandments. It has additionally been incorrectly interpreted to imply Onan’s sin was his use of contraception (coitus interruptus) or masturbation.

Coitus interruptus was referred to in 813 by Theodolphus, Bishop of Orleans, who described it as ‘Irrational Fornication’, and wrote ‘To not have relations with a lady in a pure method is known as uncleanness or a detestable sin whence we learn that Onan, the son of Juda, was struck by after getting into into his spouse and spilling his seed on the bottom’.

It ought to be famous that there are solely restricted references to using coitus interruptus in pre-Roman medical and literary texts and none in any respect within the penitentials.

Medical writers in antiquity corresponding to Galen, Soranus and the Hippocratics don’t point out the observe and it has been described as being nearly unprecedented (other than Jewish literature) in medieval instances.

Riddle due to this fact believes that this methodology of contraception wouldn’t have been popularly used because it requires a substantial amount of cooperation from the male.

Nonetheless, P.P.A. Biller disagrees and cites a number of early fourteenth century church writings which debate coitus interruptus with reference to stopping conception with married {couples}. The explanations said for using this methodology of contraception embrace stopping the ache of childbirth, the poverty of the household and lack of ability to feed a brand new baby, and the preservation of a spouse’s magnificence.

It has additionally been argued that coitus interruptus was such a self evident and customary contraceptive practise that it was pointless to document it in the identical method as natural contraceptives and abortifacient recipes.

Biller additionally posits that coitus interruptus would have been the best and most pure type of stopping being pregnant and wouldn’t have required written dissemination of the knowledge from technology to technology.


Riddle’s arguments towards using coitus interruptus as a contraceptive practise (i.e. the requirement of male cooperation, lack of written sources) is contradicted by Aëtios, who listed a spermicidal ointment particularly for male use earlier than coitus.

The ointment’s major ingredient was pomegranate, and he additionally talked about rubbing the male organ with a salt resolution which prevented conception. Each of those strategies of contraception would require a excessive diploma of male cooperation and a few primary medical data of conception. This means that coitus interruptus and coitus reservatus might have been a extra common methodology of contraception than beforehand thought.

With regard to different male contraceptive practices there’s little or no proof of using sheaths or condoms on this interval, nonetheless we all know that male condoms had been utilized by quite a few historical civilisations.

Primitive cave work depicting males sporting sheaths in Grotte des Combarelles and Egyptian tomb artefacts point out that some type of male safety was obtainable in early civilisation, though it has been argued that they have been largely used to stop transmission of sexually transmitted illnesses and never for contraceptive functions.

Proof from about 1000 BC reveals that linen sheaths have been used, particularly to stop illnesses like bilharzia and that Egyptian males wore colored condoms to show their social standing.

Whereas Roman society doesn’t acknowledge the contraceptive side of using sheaths, they did take eager curiosity public well being and the prevention of sexually transmitted illnesses corresponding to syphilis.

Each Historical Greece and Rome used hand sewn animal skins or intestine corresponding to lamb or goat for well being causes, nonetheless the contraceptive impact of the doesn’t look like commented on.

One of many earliest stories of an early fashionable condom was in Gabriel Fallopio’s De Morbo gallico, written in 1563.

Fallopio, a sixteenth century Italian anatomist, described a linen sheath soaked in lotion for prevention of the unfold of syphilis. Fallopio performed trials on1100 males utilizing condoms, none of whom had been contaminated by the illness. An additional instance of early condom use could be discovered at Dudley Fortress, England. Sheaths produced from fish, cattle and sheep intestines and relationship from the early-mid seventeenth century have been uncovered on the website, and have been doubtless used in the course of the English Civil Battle to stop the armies contracting syphilis from using prostitutes.

In each of those examples the first use of condoms was for the prevention of venereal illness and never contraception. This may occasionally point out that in the course of the medieval interval that using sheaths might have been restricted to well being causes, not for household limitation. It was not till the invention of vulcanised rubber within the mid nineteenth century that condoms turned cheaply and available and have been used for contraception on a large scale.
Rhythm methodology

Different strategies of contraception which have been dismissed as getting used irregularly inside medieval society embrace the rhythm methodology. The dialogue of the fertile and non-fertile instances of the month for ladies in medical phrases signifies a degree of consciousness of the fertility cycle and that contraceptive measures have been taken in historical and medieval instances. Riddle once more cites the shortage of references to the practise in historical and medieval sources as proof that it was not popularly used as a contraceptive practise by medieval {couples}.

Nonetheless, when the practise is talked about, the gynaecological texts corresponding to Soranus’s Gynecology, Hippocrates On the Illnesses of Ladies, state that probably the most fertile interval for intercourse was close to the top or simply after the menstrual interval.

The lack of expertise and misunderstanding of probably the most fertile instances for a lady to conceive would have impacted on its failure and success price as a contraceptive observe, but once more we will see that there was data of strategies to stop conception on this interval.
Oral contraceptives and abortifacients

There are quite a few accounts of medical, canonical and anecdotal texts which reference using oral contraceptives and abortifacients.

The origins of this may be present in antiquity and the data was handed down in medieval medical texts. As early as 100 AD Soranus famous the excellence between contraceptives and abortifacients stating and made suggestions for his or her use.

Whereas the distinction between a contraceptive and abortifacient was recognized, using emmenagogues (menstrua provocata – brokers which convey on menstruation) as potential early-term abortifacients was typically given the excellence of merely helping in relieving amenorrhoea or different gynaecological circumstances.[64] This enabled medical writers to debate contraceptive and abortifacient herbals and to disseminate data on feminine reproductive points with out having to confront the thorny problem of morality or church theology on contraception.

An instance of an emmenagogue is present in Rowland’s model of Trota’s work the Medieval Lady’s Information to Well being. The author states that to rid the uterus of suffocation (amenorrhea) and to convey on a ‘purgation’ (menses) that;

…the matter could also be introduced down with sweet-smelling issues, take the oil of musk and do thus: take 2 ½ gallons of excellent, appropriate oil that could be very candy and add to it 1 pound of pennyroyal, half a pound every of rosemary, costmary, camomile, lavender, balm, woodruff, hyssop, savory, shaving of cypress, 12 drachms of calamint, feverfew, fennel, wormwood, sage, rue, orginanum, southernwood, mugwort of St-John’s… wash them first in water, then boil in malmsey, grind them up, put them within the beforehand talked about oil, add to the combination a quart of wine…. allow them to boil proper down…go them by , new, wide-meshed canvas to scrub them…For this oil is sweet for all types of illness that happen, particularly for chilly and for the suffocation of the womb.

Lots of the natural substances listed in medieval literature as oral contraceptives, emmenagogues and abortifacients stay the identical as, or are similar to historical medical texts. Ferula (the enormous fennel), pomegranate (which was used orally and as a vaginal pessary), rue, silphium, myrrh, parsley, pepper, juniper, pennyroyal, squirting cucumber, and Queen Anne’s Lace (wild carrot) are all mentioned in historical and medieval texts.

One recipe states that to cut back the feminine ‘seed’ (and due to this fact the chance of conception), a lady ought to keep awake, and have warmth inducing herbs corresponding to hyssop, rue and cumin after which partake of ‘chilly herbs’ corresponding to St. John’s Wort and water lilies to dry the ‘seed’ out.

Vaginal suppositories, fumigations and douches are steadily talked about in historical and medieval medical texts, each for contraceptive and abortifacient causes.

A number of the suppositories may be taken orally after which have been used internally as an ‘intensive’ remedy if the oral contraceptives or arbortifacients didn’t work. It has been argued that the suppositories have been profitable because the resins within the concoctions coagulated to dam the mouth of the cervix, and/or altered the pH of the vaginal canal which acted as a spermicide and thus prevented conception.

The extent of writing on suppositories, their recipes and directions to be used, appear to point that they might have been one of the common strategies of household planning on this time.

Medieval medical writers not solely used historical sources on natural contraceptives and abortifacients but additionally added their very own findings. Within the fourteenth century, Peter of Padua included arum as a fertility agent within the gloss beside the Latin translation of the Alphabetical Dioscorides (an historical medical textual content).

Whereas not particularly said as a contraceptive he describes it as being taken by ‘uniformed folks’ earlier than coitus.[71] Hildegarde of Bingen (1098 – 1179) was one of many first western writers to debate using tansy as an emmenogogue, which remains to be thought-about an efficient abortifacient at the moment.

She was clear that sure crops corresponding to oleaster have been dangerous to pregnant ladies and causes abortion. Riddle contends that Hildegard’s treatises on abortifacients, emmenagogues and potential contraceptives present that folks utilization of herbs was nonetheless in use and present process adaptation throughout this time.

Moreover, the long run Pope John XXI (1226-1277) in his Medicine for Poor Folks (Thesaurus Pauperum), supplied 26 prescriptions referring to contraception and an extra 56 recipes for fertility.

These references present that not solely was there data of fertility management within the Center Ages, however that it was additionally more and more subtle. It additionally demonstrates that almost all of the written work was documented by the church and medical practitioners in formal medical texts, which have been summaries of medical data.

The growth in medical data of contraceptives and abortifacients on this interval could also be because of the introduction of translated Arabic medical texts, initially based mostly on Historical Greek and Roman medical writings. In the course of the twelfth century a number of Arabic medical texts have been transcribed into Latin and have been disseminated in Western Europe. These embrace Constantine’s translation of the ‘Provision of the Voyager’, which was recognized within the West because the Viaticum, a well-known medical textual content.

Gerard of Cremona translated the works of Rhazes into Latin in addition to ‘The Easy Medicines’ by Serapion the Elder. The Canon of Drugs by Avicenna was additionally a treatise translated by Gerard, and it turned a pre-eminent and essential medical textual content for hundreds of years to return. William of Saliceto’s Summa conservationis et curationis was partly derived from the Canon but additionally included a chapter on ‘These Issues That Prohibit Conception and [Cause] Abortion. He wrote;

Though this chapter will not be in keeping with the strict guidelines of regulation [demandato legis], nonetheless [it is necessary] for the abnormal course of medical science on account of the hazard that involves a lady due to a harmful danger of conceiving on account of her well being, debilities, or the extremity of her youth.

This passage demonstrates that some medical practitioners recognised the necessity for contraceptive data, and that church doctrine and secular regulation was circumvented within the pursuits of the feminine affected person in some situations. Lots of the herbals have been described as emmenogogues or abortifacients and have been included to not stop conception however to advise pregnant ladies to keep away from such herbs or substances, in alignment with church theology, though this data, as proven above, could possibly be used for different functions.

In re-examining medieval contraceptive and household planning practices we ought to be conscious that up to date medieval literature was hampered by social and spiritual taboos and {that a} vocabulary for sexual well being didn’t formally exist till the nineteenth century.

Abortion has all the time been seen as murder and the church proscribed towards it as early because the second century.

This was reiterated within the canon doctrine written by Regino in 830 which said ‘If somebody [Si aliquis] to fulfill his lust or in deliberate hatred does one thing to a person or girl in order that no youngsters be born of her or him, or provides them to drink, in order that he can not generate or she conceive, let it’s held as murder’.

Abortion as murder stems from the erroneously translated and misunderstood Hippocratic Oath which doesn’t prohibit physicians from administering an abortion, solely using abortifacient pessaries.

Medical texts within the medieval interval each help the Hippocractic perception, ‘Nor will I ponder administering any pessary which can trigger abortion’[81], and the incorrectly translated assertion that ‘Neither [will I give] to a pregnant girl a protacted drink [potio] for killing a conceived fetus [conceptum fetum]’.

There are lots of recipes listed for inflicting abortion within the medieval interval which can have been the primary methodology used as mechanical and surgical abortions have been recognised as harmful.

Following the dictates of St Augustine, medieval theologians and canonists made a distinction between the abortion of a foetus which was lower than forty days previous (for male youngsters) or 80 days for a feminine.

If abortion befell after the ‘ensoulment’ or ‘animation’ of the foetus then it was thought-about murder.

This canonical view was additional enshrined in secular legal guidelines. Throughout Edward I’s reign the English regulation said that;

He who oppresses a pregnant girl, or provides to her a poison, or delivers to her a blow [strong enough] in order to trigger an abortion, or who provides to her [something] that she won’t conceive, if the fetus is shaped and animated [foetus erat formatus et animatus], is responsible of murder…. Merchandise: A lady commits murder who so devastates an animated baby by a drink [potationem] or related issues within the abdomen.


The excellence between the phases of a being pregnant and the way a foetus was seen could be discovered within the Irish Penitentials of 800 AD which checklist the various penance for abortion earlier than and after forty days;

(5.6) A lady who causes miscarriage of that which she has conceived after it has grow to be established within the womb, three and a half years of penance. If the flesh has shaped, it’s seven years. If the soul has entered it, fourteen years penance. If the lady die of the miscarriage, that’s, the dying of physique and soul, fourteen cumals [are offered] to God as the worth of her soul, of fourteen years’ penance.

(5.7) Anybody who provides medicine or makes a bogey or provides a toxic drink so that somebody dies of it, seven years’ penance, as for murder. If nobody dies of it, three years’ penance.[86]

Thus there have been some ways to finish a being pregnant and to stop conception from going down though abortion, and in keeping with the church doctrine, contraception, was thought-about a murder. It seems due to this fact that by offering a listing of penances for the ‘crime’ of household planning signifies that household limitation strategies have been practised in medieval Western Europe, regardless of church and authorized prohibitions.

Examples of mechanical abortions could be present in Avicenna’s eleventh century tome, Canon of Drugs, which mentioned forceful bodily train, leaping and leaping to dislodge a foetus. Rowland states that the earliest medical treatises on abortion required nice bodily agility from the sufferers and that one recommends:

that the lady on the sixth day of her being pregnant ought to carry out quite a few mighty leaps, making her heals contact her buttocks. After the seventh day the ‘seed’ would fall out of her with a clatter.


Thus, the consensus of most fashionable historians is that late time period abortions (particularly utilizing mechanical or surgical means) have been to be prevented, nonetheless the quantity of literature on the subject present that early time period abortions and abortifacients have been administered.
Infanticide and Little one abandonment

Infanticide has been a preferred clarification by some historians and demographists in accounting for inhabitants actions and delivery charges within the medieval interval, though there are a selection of arguments which contradict this concept.

The elevated male to feminine ratio in the course of the time does counsel that undesirable male youngsters have been extra more likely to be accepted into the household or deserted, whereas undesirable feminine youngsters have been disposed of.

Nonetheless some demographists argue that if infanticide was a systemic observe that it will have brought about main brief time period issues with the delivery substitute price (on account of an absence of feminine companions) and would have been remarked upon in medieval texts. Additional, medieval church and secular regulation protected not solely the foetus but additionally the new child baby and prohibited infanticide. Sure letters of remission granted to ladies who dedicated infanticide in France within the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries’ state that the explanations for his or her actions have been on account of their worry of shame and momentary terror.

The expression ‘due to worry and shame’ appears to seem in most of those letters or remission. The ladies have been of the peasantry andincluded single ladies, wives and widows alike.

This implies that whereas infanticide nonetheless occurred, it was not acceptable as a household limitation methodology in Western Europe throughout this time.

The extra socially acceptable type of household planning within the medieval interval might have been baby abandonment. This observe was semi-regulated by the church within the type of exposition and oblation of undesirable infants and youngsters.

It has been advised that the chance of a father or mother abandoning their offspring elevated relying on the monetary circumstances of the mother and father (poverty was a significant component), gender, social standing and the connection between the mother and father and the way the conception happened.

Single moms, separated mother and father, or mother and father with troublesome relationships have been extra more likely to abandon or expose their youngsters. It has additionally been posited that there would have been larger charges of abandonment for handicapped or deformed youngsters, and people born as the results of incest or rape.

When taking a look at exposition we should always observe that the Latin exposition doesn’t immediately translate to ‘publicity’ of infants (though this might occur), however refers back to the ‘placing out’ or ‘providing’ of the kid to strangers, the church or public welfare.

On this sense, expositio differed from infanticide in that it provided an ambiguous different to immediately killing the kid.

Whereas dying was all the time a risk of expositio, it was not all the time the case and there’s proof that some mother and father hoped that their deserted offspring could be adopted, cared for, and presumably take pleasure in a extra affluent life than the one they have been in a position to provide.

Expositio, whereas nonetheless thought-about morally repugnant, was due to this fact distinct from infanticide and as compared could possibly be thought-about nearer to abandonment than infanticide.

A lesser recognized and sometimes used methodology of kid abandonment was the presentation of kids to the church as oblatios (“choices” or donations). Oblates have been youngsters given by their household to the church, which assumed all parental rights and authority, and educated the kids for a monastic profession.

Seven appears to be the usual age for acceptance right into a monastery or nunnery, nonetheless on the uncommon event, youngsters as younger as three or 4 have been additionally recorded as taking vows.

Oblation required the everlasting give up of the kid by the mother and father whose parental rights have been subsumed by the church.

Initially it was the supernumerary youngsters of rich households who have been donated as oblates, as they have been in a position to present a financial present to the church, in compensation for elevating and coaching the kid. Later, youngsters of poorer and destitute households have been accepted regardless of the mother and father’ lack of ability to supply monetary incentives.

The variety of youngsters offered at monasteries elevated in periods of financial hardship and from this we will surmise that the church was seen as a final resort by some mother and father who wished to restrict their households or have been unable to supply for extra youngsters.

In distinction, the church additionally needed to make particular prohibitions towards the donation of extraneous youngsters from wealthier households when its sole goal was to stop the division of an property or household wealth.

Nonetheless, it ought to be famous that some mother and father might have donated their offspring purely for non secular causes even when superfluous youngsters have been concerned.

The church additionally prevented the donated baby from leaving the monastic life as an grownup and the act of oblation was thought-about binding and irrevocable, significantly by St Bernard.

This rule was relaxed within the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries as the issues it created with unwilling and impious clergy turned evident and the practise got here underneath rising assault.

Contraception and different strategies of various household limitation have due to this fact been current in society from antiquity to the current day, together with the medieval interval. Researcher Norman Himes present in his research, A Medical Historical past of Contraception, that ‘the will for management is neither time nor area sure. It’s a common attribute of social life’.

In revisiting the sources on medieval contraception we will due to this fact see that quite a lot of household planning strategies have been obtainable to men and women the time. First hand doc paperwork from antiquity onwards present that medieval folks have been subtle sufficient to distinguish between contraceptive and abortifacient medicine, which had particular makes use of and directions. A litany of plant and natural treatments have been cultivated to cut back the chance of conception, to behave as emmenogogues and antiabortionists.

These medicinal remedies have been clearly documented and practised by all kinds of the inhabitants, together with feminine physicians and midwives. Moreover, new analysis into historical and medieval contraceptive treatments has discovered that many substances comprise excessive dosages of estrogen, which disrupts the common fertility cycle and should clarify the effectiveness of the potions.

This consequence means that the really helpful remedies have been profitable if adopted accurately and helps the supposition that contraceptives and abortifacients have been used on a wider scale than beforehand thought. We will additionally discover clear proof that contraceptive data was expanded onand medical texts have been disseminated from the East to Western Europe from the twelfth century onwards.

Mechanical and surgical abortions have been carried out, although more likely to a lesser extent than early-term abortions by way of emmenogogues because of the elevated danger to the mom. When re-examining baby abandonment as a household planning methodology, we discover that each rich and poor households engaged within the practise, although generally for various causes.

Non-medicinal contraceptive practises corresponding to coitus interruptus have generally been dismissed non-existent, nonetheless, there’s convincing proof that it was practised regardless of the necessity for male cooperation and sensitivity. Though infanticide has been the trendy clarification for the discount in delivery charges, there’s conflicting data which signifies that it was not more likely to be a preferred methodology of household planning in the course of the medieval interval.

Medieval medical, canonical and literary texts comprise a exceptional quantity of direct and incidental data which present that medieval ladies have been educated about contraception and abortion. Furthermore, medieval ladies have been ready to make use of household planning strategies efficiently and relied on historical (and up to date) gynaecological data which was handed on by the generations.

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