Current pregnancy recommendations vary, and women often find themselves confused about the best way to make it through nine months of carrying a child. Should they follow a strict diet or eat what they crave? Should they take over-the-counter drugs or stick mostly with natural remedies for ailments? Should they try for natural birth or simply take the epidural and try to enjoy the ride?
While women may receive varying responses to these questions today, the recommendations from centuries and decades ago definitely sound out of place. Smoking and drinking but avoiding sunlight were common practices, as were horrifying twilight births. Women during these times saw nothing wrong with these practices and did what their doctors told them to without knowing any better.
It’s easy to spot the bad practices now that we have the benefit of hindsight, but moms during these times just wanted the best for their children like we do, so they took the advice with a grain of salt and often complied. Some of these recommendations led to bad outcomes for both moms and babies.
Who knows what future generations will say about our pregnancy and birthing practices. Eating the placenta may sound like cannibalism to future moms, and water births could be viewed as attempted drownings. We know what is normal to us, and we also know that the following recommendations were likely not good for anyone. We can only hope that future generations will offer us grace in our ignorance, and we can try to do the same.
15 Eat For Two
In the not so far off past, pregnant women were often told by well-meaning individuals that pregnancy meant eating for two. Unfortunately, that’s not actually the case, and gaining more weight than necessary while pregnant puts a woman at a higher risk of developing gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, and facing premature birth.
In truth, women often don’t need much in the way of extra calories that first trimester, and that’s a good thing since most have food aversions due to morning sickness. Researchers recommend an additional 300 calories during the second trimester, and during that last long trimester, mom can grab an extra 500 calories a day. Women who are carrying multiples will obviously need more.
Moms also need to choose healthy food the majority of the time instead of binging on whatever suits them at the moment. It’s not near as fun as the eat-for-two advice, but it’s much better for mom and baby.
14 Ignore Cravings Altogether
On the flip side, doctors used to recommend women never give into their pregnancy cravings, simply ignoring what they wanted to eat and opting for a salad. This was back in the days when a woman wasn’t really supposed to look pregnant and was expected to fit right back into her normal clothes moments after birth.
The problem with this advice is that women sometimes have cravings for reasons. Sure, the desire to eat cake everyday while pregnant is probably not a great one to surrender to, but every once in a while is fine. Women also report craving red meat, probably for the iron content, and others want very specific, strange foods fed to them simultaneously.
Reasonable splurges make pregnancy bearable, and the last thing on mom’s mind should be how she’s going to look after she delivers her child. We all look like we just had a baby after we deliver our children, and that’s normal.
13 Puff Away
Adults who suffer from chronic lung problems might want to ask mom if she smoked cigarettes while pregnant. Because women weren’t told not to and cigarette manufacturers actually marketed to pregnant women, the answer may very well be yes.
The Surgeon General did not express to people that smoking was linked to lung cancer until the 1960s, so smoking was not only okay in general; pregnant women didn’t know not to do it. Plus, doctors sometimes even offered pregnant women cigarettes to calm their jitters or help them with a cough. Seriously.
Luckily, we now know that smoking comes with an increased chance of infertility, miscarriage, and all kinds of problems for the babies who are exposed to cigarettes in the womb. There’s no reason for a woman to choose to smoke while pregnant today because of the plethora of information available that shows how bad it really is.
12 Twilight Sleep
Birth recommendations have really changed through the years, but twilight sleeps represents a fairly recent time in history when women who sought “painless” births actually ended up in violent birthing experiments that could cause them to be psychotic.
Twilight sleep involved using morphine and scopolamine to lessen women’s pain and put them into a semi-conscious state. When women were conscious again after birth, they didn’t remember the experience. Birth was still painful, with morphine coming nowhere near dulling all the pain. However, women couldn’t remember the pain.
There are so many problems with this approach, such as moms being tied down to the beds and thrashing around banging their heads against walls. In the moment, they were very much in pain but given no coping techniques. They were simply drugged. The drugs also affected babies. They were more likely to be born in a semi-conscious state as well.
11 Wear A Corset
Before maternity bras or comfortable undies for pregnant women were created, corsets were all that women had, even pregnant ones. Instead of encouraging women to loosen up during pregnancy so mom’s body and the baby could grow without being literally tied in by a corset, advertisers marketed them as being good for a woman’s health.
Mom’s also wore these after birth while they were nursing their children. After having children, the most society seemed to offer them was another chance to cinch their sore bodies in while recovering. We know now this is not a good idea and doesn’t offer health benefits during pregnancy or recovery. While there are belts moms can wear that help hold their stomachs up and relieve some back pain, these do not press mom’s internal organs together while she is with child, thankfully.
10 Throw Em’ Back
Fetal alcohol syndrome is real, but that wasn’t known when doctors recommended women throw back some wine whenever they wanted. It was said to help mom pass the time and relax while waiting to meet her child. While pregnant women might have felt very relaxed, this practice wasn’t good for their babies.
While some researchers claim a very small amount of alcohol is fine, others say complete abstinence in this department is preferable. The first trimester, when so many organs and functions are being established in a baby’s body, is an especially important time to refrain from alcohol.
If a woman finds out she is pregnant and has already been indulging heavily, she needs to stop drinking and tell her doctor. She can work with her OB to check and make sure her baby is okay, and if mom has an addiction problem, she can seek treatment so her child won’t suffer because of it.
9 Avoid The Sun
We’ve been told different information about the sun for years. It offers us vitamin D, but it can also burn our flesh and give us cancer. New thinking says it’s actually sunscreen that gives us cancer, not the sun. What are we supposed to believe? One thing we can be sure of is that we don’t have to avoid the sun completely when we’re pregnant like women were told to years ago.
Women were told that too much sun could “cook” the baby, overcook it to be exact. While it’s important to exercise caution in the sun always and not to sunbathe wearing baby oil while pregnant, women can step into the sun without fear of their child coming out burned.
Doctors often meant well, but a pregnant woman stuck in the house with no sunlight is not healthy. Women need to move, to see light, and to feel normal while pregnant. Living like vampires is no way to achieve this.
8 Stay Away From Cars
Even cars were the enemy to pregnant women during parts of the 20th century, with doctors warning women that riding in them was too much of a risk. They weren’t talking about car wrecks, which are very real risks for pregnant women. Doctors were simply referencing the way the car bounces, saying it was too much for pregnant women and they might as well go ride a bull at a rodeo.
Thankfully, this recommendation has fallen out of fashion. Between avoiding the sun and not being able to ride in a car, we’re not sure how any pregnant woman in the past ever left the house. Doctors did okay train rides back in the days when cars were frowned upon for gestating women.
Women do need to wear their seat belts and know that car accidents can occur while they are pregnant and affect their pregnancy. However, many accidents can occur inside and outside of a car. We can’t just stop living life while pregnant.
7 Care For The Husband Before You Need To Recover
An old recommendation from the days when women could not be anything more than homemakers, this one is truly sad. Women who had just brought children into the world were told to plan ahead so their husbands would be fully equipped to survive while they recovered.
While it’s nice to make a few casseroles and throw them in the freezer, to tell a woman the only way her husband will live and she will receive a peaceful recovery is to make sure her husband doesn’t even have to boil water is ridiculous.
Parents are partners, and one can pull the slack when needed. Since mom carries the baby, births the baby, and then is often the one feeding the baby from her body all day and night, it’s totally fair for dad to wash his own clothes and make some dinners. While he’s at it, he can even take care of mom since she is recovery from bringing a person into the world.
6 No Intimacy
There were different reasons doctors gave for recommending mom and dad skip the nookie while mom was pregnant, one being it could hurt the baby. Apparently there wasn’t a full understanding of how the cervix works and how thoroughly a child is insulated in the womb.
Another popular reason for telling women decades ago to skip the intimacy was because it would make the child a lustful little creature from day one. Some doctors seemed to think sexual desire was contagious, so it’s best not to spread it to poor innocent children in the womb.
We know better now, and doctors often tell couples to try some action in the sheets to get labor started. They also don’t recommend couples give up intimacy unless there is a special concern about the pregnancy. Mom or dad may not have the desire during pregnancy, but there’s usually no advice against getting it on while pregnant.
5 Look At Pretty Things
While it’s nice to have lovely décor around us to admire, the advice given to women in centuries past to look at pretty things while pregnant was misguided for many reasons. The first is that women were supposed to look at pretty things so their children would come out beautiful. Most pregnant women can attest to the fact that there are much bigger issues to think about during pregnancy than if the kid is cute enough. Our kids will always be gorgeous to us.
The second problem is this obviously isn’t science supported. A baby’s appearance is built by genetics and luck, not mom gazing at lovely landscapes or nice paintings.
Women were also told to look at lovely items during birth to make sure the child arrived looking fabulous. The reasoning is still off, but it does make sense to create ambience and have items on hand that calm mom during labor. It can make labor easier, but it’s not going to affect the looks of the baby.
4 Don’t Breastfeed
Women who breastfed during the late 19th century through the first 60 or so years of the 20th century were thought to be uneducated and poor. The practice was considered gross, and neither doctors or advertisers recommended breastfeeding to women. Women who chose it, in the opinion of others, were obviously just too poor to buy formula or have a wet nurse.
Thinking, thankfully, has changed, and women who choose to breastfeed now do it because the practice is research-supported. It’s good for mom and baby. Public breastfeeding is becoming more mainstream, and lactation consultants are available to help mom get started on this part of parenting.
However, just because the tide has turned doesn’t mean every woman has to breastfeed. What we can learn from the old practice of shaming breastfeeding moms is that shaming a mother for feeding her child is not okay. Breast or formula is fine, and moms get to choose what works for their crew.
3 Think Good Thoughts
This advice was dispensed during the Victorian age when doctors firmly believed a mother’s thoughts affected how her child turned out. Women who thought happy thoughts were thought to have happy babies who didn’t fuss as much. Women who focused on the negative got those high maintenance whiners they deserved since they didn’t think happy enough.
Their reason for this confusion was that they believed a mother’s thoughts actually went into the baby’s brain. Based on this logic, it makes sense that happy moms would produce happy babies and sad or anxious moms upset babies. The problem is the logic is faulty. A baby doesn’t receive mom’s thoughts.
Though stress can affect a pregnancy, researchers have found it has to be a tremendous amount of stress, not the everyday things most of us deal with. Stress may be cause a harder pregnancy for mom, but it’s not going to make our babies read our brains.
2 Do Nothing Fun
As recently as the 1950s, pregnant women were advised to do nothing fun outside of their homes. Any form of excitement or activity was deemed too much for pregnant women, and they were encouraged to focus on their home life by doing crafts or reading books. Listening to the radio was acceptable as well.
Now pregnant women lead normal lives while growing a person unless there is a medical reason to put the brakes on certain activities. Most pregnant women work up until their due date, still dine out with friends, and some have even started taking advantage of the babymoon. The babymoon takes place before the baby is born when mom and dad take a vacation to relax before becoming parents.
1 Embrace Maternity Fashion That Conceals
Thankfully, corsets during pregnancy fell out of favor, but that doesn’t mean experts didn’t have an opinion on what women should wear while with child. Maternity fashion was encouraged in the mid 20th century, and it basically included tops that looked like tents. These were best to conceal mom’s delicate condition.
During the days when talking about sex simply wasn’t done, pregnant women were encouraged to wear clothes that hid their pregnancies. That way no one had to think about the fact that a baby was in their womb because they’d been intimate with a man. It was a way to keep society focused on pure thoughts, not women having healthy relations with their husbands.
Today’s maternity fashion is beautifully diverse, with no corsets and plenty of items that don’t look like garbage sacks draped over the body.
Sources: Littlethings.com, Allday.com, Whattoexpect.com, Envisioningtheamericandream.com, Bellybelly.com.au