Back in the 50s, there were many pregnancy rules that are no longer rules today. Many studies have been conducted over the decades to find what was harmful to pregnant women and what was not was behind the changes. That being said, the rules that pregnant women had to follow in the 1950's are starkly different from the recommendations set out today.
If you are pregnant in today's day and age, the rules to follow are for the most part simple, yet at the same time quite difficult. Aside from the obvious rule of avoiding drinks and certain substances, their other current rules also include avoiding sushi, feta cheese, as well as deli meats that haven't been heated up.
These foods are known to carry bacteria that can be dangerous to the unborn baby. Pregnant women are also advised to take folic acid or folate to reduce the risks of the baby ending up with serious neural tube defects. Oh, and pregnant women are not meant to lift anything heavy either. That one is a no-brainer rule.
Whenever you think about these rules, you know that they are logical. I mean, avoiding sushi during pregnancy was a tough one for me because I love sushi. But I did not want to take any kind of risk so I avoided it. And, as time goes on, and more discoveries are made- there will be more pregnancy rules implemented. In the 50s, the rules that pregnant women had to follow were completely different and unfathomable to us now.
15 They Were Told Not To Eat
You are probably aware that being pregnant does not earn you a ticket to all of the 'all you can eat' buffets around. That is because you are not supposed to be eating for two or more when you are pregnant- that includes if you are pregnant with multiples. Gaining too much weight during your pregnancy can be hazardous, which you probably know already. You would be increasing your chances of ending up with gestational diabetes and preeclampsia- which definitely want to avoid with a 10-foot pole.
An article in the March 1956 edition in McCall’s Magazine had advocated a strict diet for expecting mothers, for the purpose of them staying thin. That is also dangerous and it is a great thing that the rules have changed.
We know now that pregnant women need to increase your caloric intake in the second trimester to 300 to 400 calories extra a day up until the delivery date. The only exception is breastfeeding, in which case you would need to keep on eating more.
14 They Were Prescribed Thalidomide
If you are one of those unlucky pregnant women dealing with morning sickness from hell, then you are likely going to be prescribed anti-nausea medication that is safe to take during pregnancy. I have heard that they are not always effective, and my emetophobic self has been thanking those lucky stars that I did not ever have to find out. I was fortunate enough to effectively treat my pregnancy nausea by munching on crackers and sipping on ginger ale (and I am sure my stubborn will had played a part in my luck too).
By the way, my heart really goes out to you if you had a rough time with that and nothing helped ease your sickness. However, one anti-nausea medication that is no longer prescribed to pregnant women dealing with morning sickness is Thalidomide.
According to Mayo Clinic, Thalidomide was no longer prescribed in the 60's because it was linked to severe birth defects. However, it's still around because it has other uses according to the same source. Apparently, Thalidomide is preferred for treating skin lesions caused by leprosy, and also for multiple myeloma. It's definitely not for morning sickness nowadays.
13 Responsible For The Kind Of Labor They Had
How would you feel if you were told that if you had a bad labor, then it was your fault? Could you imagine your OBGYN or midwife saying that to you? Neither can I. However, according to Bounty, it could have happened in the 1950's.
Because of the fact that less was known about obstetrics back then, women who had painful labors (which is the majority) back in those days were told that they endured pain because they did something to cause it. So if this was the case in the 1950's, then this had to be the case prior to that. Given the fact that there was less known about obstetrics even back then. That said, they did not realize how bad labor pains really are back then. Can you even imagine that?
The belief was that labor pains should not be felt, because women were supposed to only be excited to meet their new baby instead. That's right. The pain was not allowed to be felt at all. Whenever you think of that, it is hard not to be thankful to be alive many decades later- where research conducted along the way had proven that labor pains are indeed very real- and are incredibly excruciating.
12 Special Juice Was Given To Halt Labor
The idea of having even one sip of wine during pregnancy is a terrible one. Why increase the risk of your unborn baby for having birth defects? And whenever we hear about mothers who drink during pregnancy, it is easy to judge them- unless they didn't know they were pregnant. That can happen to the best of us.
However, back in the first half of the 20th century, drinking booze was definitely permitted and even in some situations encouraged.
I had written an article in the past about pregnancy rules that women had to follow a century ago. At that time I had learned that women drank champagne to help manage nausea, and they drank ale to increase their iron count. And, according to the NY Times, pregnant women in the 1950's that was going into early labor were given a glass of vodka and orange juice to halt labor. In some cases, they were given alcohol intravenously. Did it work? There was no information anywhere to determine that.
This practice continued until the 1960's, and it was not until 1973 that fetal alcohol syndrome was diagnosed. That is when the link between drinking alcohol during pregnancy and birth defects were found.
11 They Were Told To Light One Up
Nowadays, you could not comprehend how a pregnant woman could smoke. That is considering how much education and awareness there has been around about the dangers of smoking during pregnancy or not for years. However, back in the 1950's, and prior to that, pregnant women were encouraged to smoke because it calmed them down. And it has always been known that stress is very bad for the expecting mom. In fact, doctors offered pregnant women to light one right there in their offices.
According to Mental Floss, the link between stillbirths, premature births, and babies born with low birth weights and smoking was found in the 1960's. From that point on, other ways to deal with stress had to be found that did not involve smoking or drinking during pregnancy.
My grandmother was a heavy smoker, and she smoked when she was pregnant with my uncle and my mother. My uncle was born in the 1940's and my mother was born close to 1950. They both were born small, and my grandmother apparently continued to smoke while my mom was a baby and a small child.
The reason that she ended up quitting, in the end, was due to the fact that she had a heart attack at the age of 49. She ended up passing away from heart failure and emphysema that was caused by heavy smoking.
10 Watching Sporting Events Was Forbidden
Can you imagine being denied to attend a sporting event all because of being pregnant? And why would that be? Well, maybe because sporting events are known to cause excitement. The audience becomes excited whenever their home team is winning regardless of the game, and at the same time, they become upset whenever they are losing. And you can see that fans can become really emotional.
That is too much for a pregnant woman to deal with, or is it really? According to Mental Floss, this was the case in the 1940's and 1950's. They had talked about a pregnancy advice manual from that time period that clearly stated that pregnant women were not allowed to attend sporting events. That is because they simply could not handle it.
Well, things certainly have changed drastically between now and then. Even though I don't really attend too many sporting events nowadays, whenever I did go I remember seeing pregnant women in the audience. I simply don't have the time, nor the interest to attend these events. In fact, I think the last sporting event I did attend was the same year I got pregnant with my daughter. If I had gone a few months later when I was pregnant- that would have been a big no-no in the 1950's.
9 Pregnant Women Were Not Allowed To Read
Like so many people today, I admit I rely on technology to keep me occupied. I mean, you do often wonder what we did before social media became a real thing. We also often wonder what we did before we could consult with Mr. Google to find out anything we wanted to know.
Well, one thing that many people did to occupy themselves was to read. And, before the thought of Google came up, people went to the library to do research or to find out anything they wanted. And all of that said, could you imagine the idea of a rule being around that did not permit anyone to read?
Well, according to Mental Floss, pregnant women in the 1950's were not permitted to read.
That is because just like attending sporting events- reading anything could cause excitement which would be damaging to the baby. In fact, pregnant women were told to avoid reading exciting books.
It was believed that if pregnant women read exciting books with heavy plots, that would have increased the risk of miscarriage and stillbirth. What a horrible rule, considering there was not a heck of a lot to do in the 1950's- especially for pregnant women.
8 Stay Away From Family Quarrels
There is no doubt that whenever things get heated up in the family, many emotions fly and stress levels rise- whether you are part of the family quarrel or not. This is why kids who watch their parents consistently argue- out loud are very stressed out. I remember those days whenever my parents started shouting at each other to get out of the way, and to go right into my room.
Therefore, since it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out how stressful family quarrels can be- according to Mental Floss, pregnant women in the 1050's were not permitted to be involved in family quarrels. That would have created too much stress for them and would have increased the chances of having a miscarriage or stillbirth.
And, it is absolutely true that too much stress is bad for the unborn baby- and definitely bad for the expecting mom. However, what do you do if you have to have it out with a family member? Especially if you were the one angry with whatever they did. Personally, I think that stewing in anger due to not expressing it is worse than being involved in a bad family argument. I suppose that is not what doctors in the 1950's considered.
7 Don't Go On Bumpy Car Rides
Whenever you are very close to your due date or worse- you are late. You are at a point when you are seriously going out of your mind because you are tired of being pregnant, and you just want to meet that baby you have been carrying for nine months already. There are so many suggestions out there as far as inducing labor goes such as eating spicy food (though that one cannot be proven), and having a fun time with your partner- which has been proven to work.
And back in the 1950's, and possibly later, one thing that heavily pregnant women did when they were past due was asking their husbands to take them on a bumpy car ride. It was believed back then that all of that motion would help get things going. Though, according to The Bump, there is absolutely no truth to this notion at all.
It does not matter how much of a bump you would drive over- it won't cause labor to happen. And many women that were earlier in their pregnancies worried that it could cause a miscarriage. The answer again is no. That is because the baby is protected by the uterus and the fluid. When the baby is ready to come out, it will but not always on your terms.
6 Breastfeeding Was Not Recommended
Nowadays, mothers are encouraged to breastfeed their babies because there are so many benefits that come with breastfeeding as opposed to formula feeding. This can be a controversial topic because there are many moms out there that don't want to breastfeed- and many of those who believe in it have done a great job with making these moms feel guilty. Especially when it comes to moms like myself who were not able to breastfeed.
However, based on what you have read already, you see how much things have changed since the 1950's. In fact, back then, according to Laleche UK, women were told not to breastfeed.
The reason for that was because their milk was too thin. Therefore, formula feeding was really the only feeding option.
I even remember my mother telling me this as well since she was a baby in 1950, and she was formula-fed. I was born in the 1970's and my mother said that at that point, breastfeeding was already being encouraged. My mom did try to breastfeed me but could not do it so I was formula-fed. I also tried to breastfeed my daughter but I also could not do it and she was formula-fed. And, I don't let anyone make me feel guilty about that decision at all.
5 Pregnant Women Were Frail And Had To Stay In Bed
If you have been pregnant, or if you are pregnant, your OBGYN has told you that you need to get moving. They don't mean you have to work out. In fact, working out while you are pregnant is not recommended. They mean you need to take a half-hour brisk walk five days a week. That is unless you have had pregnancy complications, or are experiencing them now and require bed rest.
Exercise is important in order to keep things circulating properly. Not to mention, exercising will help the mom-to-be prepare better for her birth.
However, according to WebMD and plenty of other sources as well, exercise was definitely not recommended for pregnant women in the 1950's, and definitely before that. In fact, pregnant women were considered to be infirm or debilitated. They were required to rest, and not do much of anything really.
Over time they had found that the lack of exercise during pregnancy was actually not good for the mom or baby. As I said before, the only time they suggest that pregnant women take it easy and rest is if there is a complication involved. Otherwise, they need to keep moving- but definitely within reason. Moderation really is the key to everything.
4 Don't Reach For Things Above Their Heads
If you have to reach for a plate that is on the shelf above your head while you are pregnant, will you grab it yourself or ask someone else to grab it for you? Are you afraid if you reach for something that is above your head that you could cause a major complication to happen?
This pregnancy myth was believed in the 1950's since pregnant women back then were told not to reach for anything that was above their heads. That was because there was a good chance that the cord could be wrapped around the baby's neck. According to Baby Center, this myth was busted a long time ago thanks to all of the research that has been done over time to indicate that. That means if you are still concerned about this possibility and you are pregnant right now- there is absolutely no reason to be.
That said if you are pregnant and want to go outside, and you need to grab your hat that is on the rack above your head. Go and grab it. Your baby will be fine. and if you don't wear your hat on a sunny day, that is far more dangerous than you attempting to reach for it.
3 The Words ‘Pregnancy’ And ‘Being Pregnant’ Were Not Permitted
The day that you found out that you were pregnant, you were not only full of excitement and nervousness- but you were probably looking forward to the day that you were comfortable enough to announce the pregnancy. And, you had planned to say to your friends and family, or anyone else who you wanted to know: "I have big news, I am pregnant!". Making that announcement is most definitely acceptable today, and it was even acceptable several decades ago.
However, making that kind of announcement was not appropriate in the 1950's. In fact, you were only permitted to say "I am expecting".
The word 'pregnancy' and the phrase 'being pregnant' were not permitted because it was quite taboo back then.
There was an author who had written about pregnancy in the 1950's in LaLeche UK that spoke about an incident that happened when she was a child at that time. She had seen a pregnant woman walking in the streets and asked her mother why that woman was so fat Her mom shushed her and later on whispered that the woman was having a baby- like it was a terrible thing to talk about. That said, the terms pregnancy and being pregnant were profane words back then.
2 A One-Week Stay In The Hospital Was Mandatory After Giving Birth
If you have an easy birth without any complications and you are blessed with a healthy baby, then you will likely only stay at the hospital for 48 hours. And I remember how that was when my daughter was born. It was a good labor (even though I did not think so at the time) and thankfully the birth went well, and she was fine- they only kept me for two days.
By the way, I was completely fine with leaving by then because I seriously had enough of being stuck in the hospital and wanted to get home with my daughter. That said, my heart goes out to those moms who gave birth in the 1950's because they had to stay at the hospital for a week. In fact, that rule stuck around for quite a while because my mom said that she stayed in the hospital for a week after I was born. That was in the 1970's.
However, according to Business Insider, the 1950's North American rule regarding the length of the mom's hospital stay after giving birth still applies to Ukrainian moms. They said that in Ukraine, women stay in the hospital for six days after giving birth. I have always said that part of the world is still quite behind on the times so it makes sense.
1 Dads Had To Stay Away From Delivery Rooms
Can you imagine being in labor and your husband or boyfriend, or I should simply say the father of your baby should not be allowed to stay with you while you are delivering his son or daughter? There was a time, really not all that long ago when fathers were not permitted to be in the delivery rooms.
That rule was in place in the 1940's and 1950's during those times when more and more women were giving birth at hospitals. And, according to NPR, this law stuck around until the mid-1960's to the 1970's.
The reason for this rule was that according to the same source, because giving birth was a female event; only women could be present during the delivery. No men were allowed. There was always a midwife, and if there was a male physician around- he could come and go but never be present during the birthing process.
Understandably so, dads were very unhappy about this and were stuck in rooms that were called "stork clubs". These rooms were close enough to the labor and delivery room where they would hear their wives cry from labor pains. There were not many painkillers used as well back then. Things didn't change too much until the 1970's when painkillers were more effective, and dads were permitted to be in the labor room.