Drumming wombs & fanny farts: Listening to the widow’s belly in seventeenth-century Ireland.

The Perceptions of Pregnancy blog, like the Researchers’ Network, aims to reach beyond boundaries and borders, and to facilitate an international and interdisciplinary conversation on pregnancy and its associated bodily and emotional experiences from the earliest times to the present day. This month Clodagh Tait shares a quirky story about mistaken pregnancy and fanny farts (queefs!) in c17th Ireland.

Mary Gage, an Englishwoman who arrived in Ireland with her brother at around the time of the Ulster Plantation, had several misfortunes in the years prior to 1620. Her husband, John Rowley of Castleroe, near Coleraine, Co Derry, died in 1618, and she had lost one of her four children in infancy.[1] In early 1620 she remarried, to Sir George Trevelyan, a former soldier from a Somerset gentry family who had been in Ireland about twenty years. George became ill that July, and on 13 September he died at Carrickfergus, Co. Antrim. Five days later George’s uncle and patron, Sir Arthur Chichester, Lord Deputy of Ireland, wrote to John Trevelyan about his brother’s edifying death. ‘He died a good Christian and in perfect memory to his last gasp, for which God be praised!’ This, Chichester continued, with ‘his lady’s being with child…is all the comfort he hath left behind him’.

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‘Trouble and Expense’: The Pregnant Woman and the Asylum

The Perceptions of Pregnancy blog, like the Researchers’ Network, aims to reach beyond boundaries and borders, and to facilitate an international and interdisciplinary conversation on pregnancy and its associated bodily and emotional experiences from the earliest times to the present day. This week Morag Allan Campbell writes about pregnant women and the asylum in nineteenth-century Scotland.

In his annual report of June 1858, James Howden, Medical Superintendent of the Montrose Royal Lunatic Asylum, on the east coast of Scotland, chose to explore in some detail a case which he noted as ‘somewhat peculiar’.   A young woman had been admitted to the asylum ‘in a state of great excitement’.  Before long, the asylum doctors began to suspect she was pregnant, and she duly gave birth to a baby boy.  Immediately, she became ‘calm and collected’ and her conversation became rational.[1]  The following year, Howden noted a similar case.   A pregnant woman had been admitted in ‘an apparently demented condition’ and gave birth to her child in the asylum, after which she ‘slowly regained her mental powers’ and ‘ultimately recovered’.[2]

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