Walcher’s Position is a technique used in labour where the mother reclines with her back supported and her legs dangling. This technique was used to encourage the pelvis to open a fraction wider. The position can be held for a limited number of contractions and can ease the delivery of a baby that may be need to be rotated before it can pass through the birth canal.
While the position was in use as far back as the 17th century, it was not known as Walcher’s until 1889 when Gustav Adolf Walcher, Director of the Württenburg School for Midwives in Stuttgart, wrote about the position in Die Conjugata eines Beckens ist kine konstante Grösse, Sondern, lässt sich durch Körperhaltung der Trägerin Verändern.
The above image is from a publication in our rare books collection: La Commare o riccoglitrice (The Midwife, 1601 edition) by Italian monk turned surgeon Scipion Mercurio. Mercurio was one of the first to illustrate and describe this birthing position.
The image shows a midwife assisting a mother in a similar position to Walcher’s Position during a difficult delivery. The midwife is kneeling on the bed and using her hands to realign the foetus. Midwifery manuals often encouraged midwives to improvise and make use of items around the home (pillows, chairs, etc.) to assist with deliveries. In this image the mother is propped with several cushions.