Believe it or not, from 1914 all the way up to the 1960's, it was common practice to heavily sedate laboring women right before they delivered their babies.
"Twilight sleep' became wildly popular with the feminist movement in America after two journalists reported on the procedure in a popular woman't magazine.
It appeared to be a way for women to "take control of labor," and as the demand for 'twilight sleep' escalated, hospitals and doctors rushed to put the risky procedure into practice...
It Erased Memory of the Birth
One of the drugs used to relieve a woman of the pain of birth actually erased her memory of the whole process.
The drug was called scopolamine and it comes from the deadly nightshade plant. It causes the user to become semi-conscious and gives them a form of amnesia.
But They Had Horrible Flashbacks
The same drug that erased their memory also caused horrible flashbacks. Bits and pieces of the traumatic events would often come back to them - sometimes years later....
It's hard to believe that any woman would want to put herself through this, yet many did!
The general public only understood that this procedure meant they could essentially go to sleep, have a painless birth, and wake up with a beautiful baby in their arms.
Sadly, for many women this was not the case.
It Wasn't Actually Painless
Although the doctors that supported this kind of medicated birth claimed that it was a painless event, the real truth is that it was very painful indeed!
Morphine was the other drug that doctors used during the "twilight sleep" birth, but not all of the doses were appropriate for the patients and many of them still experienced pain - crying out for hours.
While many didn't remember, they still suffered anyway.
They Were Chained Down
The horrible side effects of the drugs caused the women to become delirious, and exhibit psychotic behavior.
For their own protection (and for that of the doctors) laboring women were shackled and locked into hospital beds where they could not move.
Labor Was Longer Than Necessary
While no two birth experiences are the same, when it comes to labor and delivery, there are averages that most women fall into.
Like average length of time it takes for the cervix to dilate from the first contraction to the final push.
In many cases, longer labor meant longer recovery times and the babies would be born drug addled and lethargic....
The procedure was perfected in Germany, known to doctors over there as Dammerschlaf.
It was recommended that physicians complete three years of training in order to properly use the drugs and the treatment.
But, because demand was so high in their home country, American doctors only observed "several births" before returning to the US as 'twilight sleep trained' physicians.
Many Women Hemorrhaged
All the thrashing and moving out of control as well as the unpredictability of their contractions and labor while drugged put the women in real danger of bleeding to death during the delivery.
Most women were all given the same dosage of the drugs and many were not monitored, or else were being cared for by untrained nurses.
They Were Forced Into Straightjackets
As if labor wasn't scary enough, some hospitals put pregnant mothers into straight jackets to keep them from thrashing during the throes of labor.
The heightened anxiety and intense stress on the heart. The rate of mother and infant casualties was much higher during this procedure than that of at home births.
While they are definitely not pleasant, contractions are required to help a baby make its way down the birth canal.
The morphine that was administered to women during 'twilight sleep' caused contractions to slow, making labor a very long, drawn-out and painful process.
It Was Practiced Until The 60's
It wasn't until women started to really recall and talk about their experiences that hospitals stopped anesthetizing laboring mothers to the point of unconsciousness.
By the early 70's, the natural birth movement began, but thanks to twilight sleep, birth was now less a practice of women at home and more under the control of hospitals and doctors.
Do you know anyone who had a 'twilight sleep' birth? Were you born this way? Let us know in the comments below!