In the 19th century, pregnancy and childbirth were the main causes of death in women. It is hardly any wonder that Victorian women were frightened at the thought of being pregnant!
To protect them from ill health, women were deterred from leaving their homes during the final stages of pregnancy. Exercise, walking or moving about, were discouraged to prevent muscle weakening. Bathing was disapproved of and sex was strictly forbidden. The ideal confinement involved lying on the back in bed covered with blankets. The curtains were drawn, or the windows were guarded with shutters, to exclude fresh air. Diet consisted of tea and other warm liquids and very little solid food. All these factors increased the risk of mortality during childbirth.
There is no evidence to suggest that confinement reduces the incidence of maternal mortality. In fact, regular bathing ensures good personal hygiene and it reduces the incidence of skin infection. Exercise increases blood flow to the uterus and it aids postpartum recovery. A well-balanced diet ensures adequate nutrition for the mother and the baby. An afternoon nap or walk in the fresh air can help to recharge batteries. Thankfully, modern mums find confinement practices too old-fashioned and restrictive!