TBT: Scagawea's Rattler Snake Labor Relief

Sacagawea had a long hard labor, in spite of the fact that she was one very active pregnant lady as a leading guide of Lewis and Clark across their epic exploration across the country. However when Sacagawea's labor stalled, she used a very modern solution to her ills ! All information ,according to what we know about the birth , was that she was essentially hiking and touring up to the day she gave birth, but actually delivered on train with those now legendary explorers. On February 11, 1805 when Lewis and Clark saw their young interpreter 16 year old Sacagawea was greatly troubled, they suspected obstructed labor knew she needed relief. Sacagawea's story is well known, was a Shoshoni woman captured by the Hidata Indians in the Dakotas. She was married to the French fur trapper interpreter Toussaint Charbonneau, when Lewis and Clark hired her, and what most people familiar with her story didn't know she also was pregnant! And prior to labor she had certainly exercised, she had traipsed across a good part of their journey when she began to suffer violent labor pains and prolonged labor. Captain Lewis was looking for a solution, they had no physician with them. Among the party was another French trapper who said that a small portion of the rattle of the rattlesnake helps. So this trapper, Jessom, crumbled off a small piece of one of the rings from Lewis’ prized rattler specimen collection, mixed it with water,  administered it to her, and as the legend goes, her healthy boy was delivered in minutes. As a little side note, the feminists know that Sacagawea’s Liberty US $1 coin shows baby Jean Baptiste Charbonneau in a baby carrier on his mother’s back, he’s the only child to ever be pictured on a US coin. Rene Jassume, had a different solution for Scagawea's distress. Rene Jassume was an interpreter with a Mandan Indian wife and children knew of this remedy, but thought that Scagawea might just need pain relief had been proposing hypoxia, or lack of oxygen. Shoshone recognized that labor was painful. But not having availability of epidurals they also used techniques such as suffocation to produce a degree of unconsciousness and thus relax the woman, in today's medicine we definitely feel extra oxygen is beneficial to both mom and baby, but that rattlesnake ingredient, probably is a natural ergot which did enhance contractions! So what should we do for our labor patients, sprinkle the rattlesnake powder? Did it speed labor or relax, in southern Appalachia traditional medicine, it has also been used, in various combination as an inducing treatment for labor. Exactly what the active ingredient is in rattlesnake powder,  would probably be a great science project for us one day! Many women will actually ask if they "need" to suffer labor pains, as in, are labor pains important to the mom or the baby. The Bible implies labor pains were punishment for the sins in the Garden of Eden, so perhaps there is no real physiological reason? Is labor pain good or bad? Physiological response to labor induces respiratory alkalosis (meaning breathing so quickly makes the blood less acid) secondary to hyperventilation, and this then, in turn, reduces blood flow to the placenta. The outpouring of the stress hormone catecholamine is reversed by both relaxation techniques, and the use of treaments such as epidural anesthesia. Unrelieved labor pain is a factor in inducing post partum depression, so most obstetricians think that controlled, managed pain is reasonable, and that uncontrolled pain is not good for the mom or baby. And you want to gab with your gyno about what options might work for you. Some suggest endorphins (those happy brain hormones in our head) ameliorate the labor pains. Some women describe labor pains as empowering, fulfilling and exhilarating. Not so sure, we all can feel exhilarated by that great work out, but forced to do it several times in a row, now that’s where my endorphins might plummet. So again, judgment by your gyno is important.  So take a clue from those that have struggled before us. Sometimes the labor pains need enhancement: like Scagawea's, who's relief was getting effective propulsion to deliver her baby, and other times the relief, of a naturally progressing labor is strictly pain management. The pains of labor need to be both prepared for and dealt with realistically, depending upon your health and the objects you have for your own successful birthing!


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