15 Ways Giving Birth Has Changed In The Last 50 Years

Having a baby will likely be a memorable day, if not the most memorable. Hopefully everything that's planned will go off without a hitch, and you will be sharing the birth story with anyone and everyone. If you’ve ever had your mother or grandmother tell their birth stories, you might be aware of the changes that have happened over the years. Most of the changes over the past fifty years have been for the positive, but there may be some things that you wish still happened to pregnant women today. Like being pampered and treated with kid gloves.

Advancements in childbirth practices over the decades have resulted in women having more options in everything from how soon to find out if they are pregnant, to how they handle pain management in the final stages of delivering their newborn.

Today we can find out things much earlier than ever before. We are able to know if our babies will be born with any disabilities or defects, and we can know how our unborn babies are reacting during the entire time we labor with them.

Giving birth fifty years ago must have been a much scarier experience than it is today. Stories of infant and maternal death were more common, and the technology to prevent them were not yet commonly used.

We’ve come a long way in birthing practices over the decades, with many more advancements likely to still come. We’ve found 15 ways delivering a baby has changed over the last fifty years that we believe you will find quite interesting.

15 Two Pink Lines

In today's world, finding out if you are pregnant or not is a simple process. We can simply run to the drug store, buy a pregnancy test, and rush home to see if two pink lines appear. Pregnancy tests are available almost anywhere, even at a dollar store.

It’s very likely that your grandmother or even mother didn’t have the option of taking a home pregnancy test. They simply waited for a missed period and then called the doctor for an exam to confirm pregnancy. It wasn’t until 1978 that the first home pregnancy test was even advertised in magazines. That first test cost ten dollars and came with a vial of purified water, and eye dropper and a test tube stand with a mirror at the bottom of it. The mirror was used to observe the patterns in the tube which was a mixture of solutions that included sheep’s blood of all things.

Today we have one-step tests, digital tests, and tests that can be taken a week before your period is even due.

14 Birthing Baby Alone

Fifty years ago, it was typical for a mom to labor alone. The expectant mother would enter the hospital with her husband, and while he went to the waiting room she would be sent to a prep room. There she would be shaved, given an enema, and m0ved onto the labor room. The labor room is where she stayed, mostly alone, for the long hours it took for her body to get ready for delivery. Sometimes, the new moms were even sedated for the labor process. Once she was deemed ready to deliver, she was taken to yet another room, this time a sterile delivery room that looked much like an operating room. She would give birth in this room before making her way to the recovery room.

During those hours of labor and delivery, the men were kept away from all of the action. They were corralled into an all-male waiting room where they could pace and smoke cigarettes as they anxiously awaited news of a new son or daughter.

Only a few decades ago, men finally began to be allowed in labor rooms with their wives. They were able to share intimate moments, offers support for their wives, and strengthen their bonds.

13 Breastfeeding

If you were pregnant 50 years ago, you probably had no plans of breastfeeding. According to La Leche League, breastfeeding saw a decline in the 1960s. It was thought of as old fashioned and some people even claimed it to be unsanitary. The La Leche League, founded in 1956, wanted to change that impression of breastfeeding. They created a pamphlet that appealed to the upper-class women, claiming that breastfeeding created a special closeness between mother and child, and gave the child a firm foundation of love.

Breastfeeding became accepted and even encouraged by health professionals. Today, many workplaces are supporting breastfeeding mothers by creating a private space for them to pump. They are allowed the time to do it, and some working mothers take advantage of onsite daycares to breastfeed their child while on the job. The internet provides a wealth of knowledge and encouragement for moms who are breastfeeding, and there are numerous support groups new moms can reach out to.

12 Shorter Deliveries Yesterday

Surprisingly with all of today’s medical advancements, childbirth actually takes about two hours longer today than it did about 50 years ago. The reasons for the lengthened labor are ones you may be thankful for though.

In the decades of the 60’s and 70’s laboring moms were less likely to receive epidurals. Although epidurals reduce and even take away the pain of contractions, they can also increase labor time by an hour and a half. Many will agree that this is a small price to pay for a pain free delivery.

Another reason for the lengthened labor time of today is the changes in delivery practices. Most doctors today prefer to deliver a child without having to use a vacuum, forceps, or performing an episiotomy. They choose to use perineal massage that helps stretch the tissues and making it easier for the baby to pass through. They also my offer perineal support in which the health care practitioner places gentle pressure against the perineum to alleviate some of the pressure on it, allowing it more time to stretch and relax.

11 Short Hospital Stays

One thing that has reduced significantly over the past 50 years, is the length of time a mom spent in the hospital in labor and delivery, and in recovery. In the 1970s the average hospital stay for a mom delivering vaginally was about 4 days, and if she delivered via a cesarean section, she could plan on staying for at least 7 days.

The length of hospital stays has steadily decreased over the last 50 years. Earlier discharges resulted in reduced health care costs for insurance companies and parents. It also allowed new moms to return home sooner with their newborns to recover and bond.

Today the hospital stays seem to get shorter and shorter. Some new moms even leave with their newborns within hours of delivery. We appreciate the need for being in your own home to relax and recover, but if you can, take advantage of the extra hands in the hospital for as long as you can.

10 No Smoking Allowed

We all know the risks of smoking while pregnant today. It can increase the chances of having a miscarriage or stillbirth. Smoking also increases the risk that your baby will be born prematurely or with low birth rate. It can even cause lung problems for your newborn, along with a host of other birth defects.

We’ve learned a lot about the dangers of smoking over the past 50 years. This knowledge has led hospitals to ban smoking in their buildings and even on hospital campuses. Pregnant women are discouraged from smoking, and the warning signs of what could happen are posted everywhere.

It’s very possible that when you, yourself, was born, your mom smoked all the way through her pregnancy and even in the hospital after delivering you. In fact, in some early pregnancy books, smoking was offered as a way to relieve constipation. Your own doctor might have even offered to light your cigarette for you while you were in his office.

9 Off Limit Foods

When you become pregnant, you will find there are many foods out there that you should avoid. Even if you have a craving for them. Raw or rare meat is an obvious avoidance because of the risk of salmonella poisoning. Deli meat should also be avoided since it can be contaminated with listeria which has been linked to cause miscarriages. Tuna, raw eggs, sushi, caffeine, and alcohol join the list along with a host of other no-nos.

In decades past nothing was off limits when if you were pregnant. While pregnant, you could eat whatever your heart desired, but a weight gain of only 20 pounds was stressed. At least today a weight gain of 35 pounds is considered normal, despite the decrease of “allowed” foods.

In addition to being able to eat whatever foods a pregnant momma wanted to, she also had the liberty of taking any kind of medication she wished. Some of those medications have now been proven to cause birth defects and have been banned.

8 Maternity Fashion

Fashion most definitely has seen a big change over the past 50 years, and maternity wear has seen some of the biggest improvements. Gone are the smock tops, Peter Pan collars, and trapeze dresses that made every pregnant woman look absolutely enormous. Even under the maternity clothes, women used to be seen wearing maternity bras and panties (think huge granny panties). It was all about hiding the “bump” and keeping a woman properly covered, maintaining a conservative impression.

Today emphasizing your baby belly is not only acceptable, but also a fashion-do. Sexy maternity bras and panties are sold alongside of bikinis and belly baring shirts. Maternity skinny jeans, and form fitting tops can be found in any maternity store, while tent like tops are nowhere to be found.

Fashion has changed much over the decades and more revealing, fitted clothing is all the rage. Maternity wear is no exception.

7 Maternity Leave

A pregnant woman today is often expected to work right up until the time of delivery. Many only take a few days off before their expected due date to tie up and loose ends, and some women take no time off at all until their baby has been born.

It wasn’t until the 1990’s that FMLA even became law, which is the closest thing to paid maternity leave we have.

While it is far from perfect, today’s maternity leave is much better than the nonexistent leave of decades’ past. Women who were in the workforce in the 1970s and 1980s weren’t guaranteed any paid time off, and often couldn’t even count on their job still being there when they were ready to come back to work.

More and more companies are offering paid time for moms to have their babies and recover. Some even grant paternity leave, which allows fathers to take time off work to support their wives in recovery and help take care of their newborn. This important time helps strengthen the bond between families.

6 Childbirth Expectations

For the most part, childbirth is the same as it’s always been. The basics never change, but women’s expectations have changed over the past fifty years. Today a new mom can expect that she and her baby will be healthy throughout her pregnancy and delivery. Fifty years ago, there was a little more fear about being pregnant because there were more stories of moms and babies who died during pregnancy or even delivery. The advances in childbirth technology has minimized those risks, and has helped prevent issues that have led to disabilities and death in the past.

Women also have the opportunity to plan their pregnancies today, and not have as many children as their grandparents may have had. More options in birth control are available, and the subject of sex, pregnancy, and delivery are no longer taboo.

During delivery expectations of pain management have vastly improved. When children were once birthed more at home, most moms now deliver in the hospital, and have a variety of pain management options to choose from.

5 Twilight Sleep

Today, women usually have the choice of receiving any type of pain medication during child birth. This hasn’t always been the case. Not that long ago “twilight sleep” was introduced as an anesthetic during childbirth. It’s possible that even your own grandmother birthed their children with this drug. Doctors advocated the anesthetic and even believed that it would produce healthy and intelligent babies. After receiving the narcotics, the women were sometimes tied down because the hallucination it would produce caused the m to thrash around and bang their heads.

New mothers who experienced “Twilight Sleep” felt a sense of detachment and had a blank in their memory where the birth details should have been.

Fortunately, natural birth advocates arrived and the nightmare of “twilight sleep” ended. Women now have the right to choose if they want a medicated birth or not, and they have their partners in the room with them to back them up.

4 Technology

Technology is one of the biggest changes we have noticed between deliveries today and those that happened in the last half century. The advances in technology have made pregnancies safer and tell us more about our unborn babies than women have ever known in the past.

Doctors can offer moms to be an array of screening and diagnostic tests early in their pregnancies. These tests can detect birth defects and even gender earlier than ever, giving women the choice on how to proceed with their pregnancies and having more time to prepare for what’s to come.

During labor, hospitals now monitor continuously instead of intermittently or not at all as has happened in earlier years. By keeping an eye on the baby throughout a mom’s labor, physicians can react quickly if the see decelerations in the baby’s heartbeat, or it he shows any other signs of distress. Instead of the delivery resulting in death, which may have happened fifty years ago, babies can be born perfectly healthy despite problems during delivery.

3 Cost Of Having A Baby

It's probably not much of a surprise that you are going to spend more today, having a baby, than your mom or grandmother did years ago. The cost of healthcare has been on a continuous rise over the years. And unfortunately, America is the most expensive country in the world to deliver a baby in.

Advances in technology have helped make giving birth safer, but it comes at a price. You will usually pay a separate fee from everything from an ultrasound to an epidural. Many of these were not even an option a few decades ago. High malpractice insurance premiums have caused doctors to raise their fees as well.

Some hospitals in the country are trying to combat those high costs by having a flat rate for deliveries. Those costs might change however, if your delivery changes due to unforeseen circumstances.

Don’t be afraid to talk with your doctor about the cost of having your baby. Some practices and hospitals can offer discounts and payment plans to make having your baby as affordable as they can for you.

2 Pregnancy Pampering

A pregnant woman today can expect to do just about everything she did before she was pregnant. Unless she has complications, she is expected to carry on as she did; working, household duties, taking care of other children, etc. This hasn’t always been the case.

Years ago, a pregnant woman was thought of to be frail. She would be prescribed a lot of bed rest, and given a list of instruction of things not to do. Doctors warned moms to be to not reach for things over her head because the activity could cause the umbilical cord to wrap around the baby’s head. They were also told things like not to sit on cold cement, like the front steps, since it would cause them to develop hemorrhoids. We know now that these things are untrue.

Another big change is fifty years ago, once you were discharged from the hospital to bring your baby home, your mother or mother in law would move in with you. And stay for weeks to help take care of you and your baby. That’s right – weeks.

1 C-Section Increases

Cesarean sections account for about 30 percent of all births in the US. Forty to fifty years ago, that figure was closer to about 5 percent. C-sections have helped to increase the birth survival rates, relieving moms and doctors of some of the pressure of choosing how to react to potential delivery issues.

If you’ve had a C-section in the past, you have a 90 percent chance of giving birth by C-section again. Doctors are more inclined to schedule repeat C-sections due to the increased chance of complications in future pregnancies.

Most C-sections are performed to assist in saving the mother and child’s life, but there are other reasons that aren’t always supported by medical research. Some C-sections are performed in the baby’s heart rate goes up or down, even though it’s not necessarily clear that the baby is in distress. Some cesarean sections are also performed because the baby is said to be “too big” to deliver vaginally. The truth is there are no accurate tests to determine a baby’s size.

Even though C-sections are not always performed for the right medical reasons, there is no question that they offer another choice for a mom to deliver a healthy baby, when that would not have been the case fifty years ago.

Sources: CNN, Baby Center, Web MD, What To Expect

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