A Man's Duty Toward A Pregnant Wife
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
PREGNANCY is a phase of marital life that is much discussed by those who have studied sexual laws, and there are many diverging views as to the duties of a man toward his wife at this time.
In facing this problem and endeavoring to find a satisfactory solution, we must first of all recognize that the sexual relations, and the emotions and instincts developed in connection there-with, are to a large extent physical in nature. Conception with all its related mysteries is physiological. The physical functions and processes whereby the young of the lower animals are brought into being are almost identical with those involved in the creation of a new human life. Therefore in attempting to solve this problem it would be fitting and advantageous to study the sexual lives of the lower animals.
In comparing a human being with the lower animals in a physical way I am not casting a slur upon the human animal, for when we compare man with his distant four-footed cousins from a physical viewpoint alone, that is, as an animal, in most cases the quadruped is superior. In other words, the lower animal is usually the better animal, though man lives longer than most of the lower animals. He is a stronger specimen of life and is capable of greater endurance.
Now, we must admit that sexuality and the associated emotions spring from an animal instinct. It is the all-compelling creative force upon which depends the permanency of all species of animal life. And when we study the monogamous animals which are, of course, more closely allied to humankind so far as sexuality is concerned, we learn that there are certain limited periods during which the female will allow the approach of the male. At these particular periods there is little or no limit to the number of intimacies that may occur; but after this period, when conception has taken place, no further relations are allowed. In fact, the female of almost any species among what we may term the monogamous animals will fight with the ferocity of a tiger to protect herself from sexual approach after conception has taken place.
Now to my mind, this definitely points out the law, or rule, which should be followed in the human world. To be sure, you will hear much about man being a superior animal, and about the psychological influence of our mental make-up having changed our functional processes so as to make the human race, to a certain extent, a law unto itself, so far as sexual requirements are concerned. We may admit that there is some truth in this contention, but nevertheless the fact stands out definitely and finally that after the womb has completely closed upon an impregnated ovum there should be no sexual desire, and that a woman should turn at this time against every sexual advance. The great fundamental purpose of sexual desire has now been accomplished, and there is no further occasion for it.
Human inclination and requirements should accord with this fundamental fact. For generations, however, women have been compelled to yield to the desires of men under any and all circumstances. Consequently impregnation has not compelled sexual abstinence.
We shall have to admit that such abstinence is not desired by every woman. Many women are to a certain extent abnormal in a sexual way, and this abnormality is manifested frequently by sexual desires even during pregnancy. As to what extent this desire, when present, should be satisfied by the husband is a moot question. My own conclusions would bar out all such relations after conception. It is certain that sexual intimacies during pregnancy are not nearly so satisfying as under normal conditions, and in advanced pregnancy, at least, they involve a vital drain upon the man that is almost as baneful in its effects as masturbation. Even when there is reciprocation under such circumstances there can-not be the same exchange of magnetism as normally.
Regardless of all theories, the more a man studies the question, the more forcibly he will be impelled to the conclusion that pregnancy should interdict all sexual relations. At least this is definitely true after pregnancy has been indicated beyond all possible doubt. Sexual relations under such circumstances drain the vital forces and tend to make one an easy victim to any of the diseases which appear when vitality is low.
There are three special physiological reasons why sexual indulgence should be avoided during pregnancy. The first of these is the directly weakening effect upon the parts concerned, with irritation and congestion, which of course would be unfavorable to natural and easy childbirth. It is an item of material importance where the woman is concerned. The second is that intimacies of this kind at this time have a tendency to produce, or at least greatly to aggravate, the condition of nausea, or "morning sickness," which many pregnant women experience. The third reason is found in the very serious danger of inducing a miscarriage. There is no question that a large percentage of miscarriages are the direct result of this abuse of the sexual relation by inconsiderate, exacting husbands. It is not a merely sentimental matter. It is a practical matter. I believe that in very few instances would the husband and prospective father wish for such abnormal indulgence if he knew that it might result in the loss of his unborn child. Nor would the prospective mother, if she understood the danger, be willing to take any chances of this sort. Naturally, the danger of inducing miscarriage in this way becomes increasingly great as pregnancy advances.
Aside from this particular question, however, it is the duty of the husband to do everything possible for the physical and mental welfare of the prospective mother. The physical requirements of pregnancy call for freedom from mental strain and from exhausting work. A woman needs all the vitality and reserve strength possible during this period. Women are often inclined to con-fine themselves within doors when pregnant, but a husband should encourage his wife to be in the open air as much as possible at such times. He should see that she takes long walks, that she has plenty of appropriate exercise and that she has plenty of sleep. Sleep is of vital importance. Fresh air and plenty of sleep are conducive to a good appetite and functional power. Clean surroundings and freedom from offensive odors are particularly desirable.
The mental and nervous condition of a pregnant wife is seldom given due attention by the husband, but it is a matter of great importance. If kindness, forbearance and love are ever needed, it is during this trying period. It should be thoroughly understood by every husband that the pregnant woman is often not quite herself in a mental and nervous way, and if she develops an irritable tendency, he should not resent it. In fact, the nervous condition of some women at this time borders upon insanity. Sexual indulgence tends to make the condition worse. In any event, a man should be man enough at this time to make all possible allowances for anything that his wife may say or do. Loving consideration on his part will go a long way toward making things easier for her.
So far as possible, freedom from worry on her part is desirable. Let the husband assume the burdens of the family, and keep her mind free from anxiety. The more happiness a woman can find during this wonderful period of the formation of a new life, the better will it be for her in every way, the more perfect will be her digestion, the richer her blood supply, and consequently the better the nourishment and the greater the vitality of the coming child. The differences in the physical vigor and constitutions of different children of the same parents may invariably be traced to differences in the conditions which prevailed previous to conception and during gestation. To take proper care of his wife at this time, and to do his utmost to provide for her physical and 'mental welfare, therefore, is not only a duty that a man owes to her, but it is a duty that he owes to his children as well.