Pregnancy has always been the same, right? Definitely not true. Times are always changing, things develop and grow past their first steps. Even with pregnancy, we learn new things about how to safely carry our children before they’re born, what we should or shouldn’t do. Some things stay the same, but society has changed the way we treat pregnancy and how easy or difficult it can be. In the past, it was a lot more difficult for just about every step of the pregnancy. Between slow medical progress with pregnancy care and now disproved superstitions, life as a pregnant woman wasn’t always as easy as it is now.
Things we know and practice with pregnant women now make it seem so simple, very different things are expected of us these days. We were treated very carefully in the past, like one wrong look could break us. At the same time, we were allowed, or suggested or even told, to do things that we now know are dangerous and we should avoid. Doctors and medical practices have come a long way, it’s unbelievable to think how different things were before now, and it really makes us wonder how people managed in the past.
Here are 20 practices pregnant women used to have to go through.
20 Missing Two Pink Lines
Pregnancy tests weren’t invented until the late 1960’s! Before they were invented and made a common product for stores to sell, you simply waited until you missed a period then ran to the doctor for an exam. This was obviously very stressful to deal with. You were either missing a period and terrified you were pregnant and hoping for news it’s a false alarm, or you’re trying hard to get pregnant, going to the doctor’s office every single time you’re even half a day late for a period. There was no other option but to wait and see – maybe even pray a lot – and hope the physical signs were obvious enough for the doctor to read.
19 No more baths while pregnant
There was once the belief that taking a bath while pregnant posed a big risk to the unborn baby. Doctors and other professionals would advise heavily against baths, fearing water could get to your uterus and risk harming the baby. There are, of course, no links between baths and hurting a baby. Water cannot get through to your uterus, it cannot reach your baby or introduce anything bad to the baby. Baths are actually good for you and your baby, helping you relax which in turn helps your baby relax. Baths can also help reduce pain to your body since your back and hips are no doubt aching the further you go into your pregnancy.
18 Skipping funerals
Another superstition, women were expected to stay away from funerals. Many professionals, most from a religious place, would recommend women who are pregnant not to go to funerals. There was a fear that you would draw bad luck to yourself, risk another spirit trying to enter your baby, or even risk death taking a new life and resulting in a miscarriage or stillbirth. Of course, it’s all just superstitious ideologies, there is no evidence or proof of this ever happening or being able to happen. In the past, we looked for any reason for the loss of a pregnancy, any excuse for why it happened. Nowadays, we know for sure it has no link to ever possibly harming the baby.
17 Solo delivery
Today, we have many people in our delivery room, many family members to share the moment and greet this new life the second it’s brought into our world. In the past, however, it was unheard of! Even the father wasn’t allowed to be present in the room, only the mother and medical staff would be there for up to several hours after birth. It was seen as crude and uncouth to even ask for someone to be with you, it was up to you to be strong enough on your own to handle having the baby. No one was there to take care of you, help you, or comfort you in one of the hardest, painful times of your life. You were on your own, and that was just how it was.
16 Schrodinger's baby
Again, in the past, there was no technology that would allow us to see our baby. Not for the gender, and not even for the baby’s health and development. We couldn’t have a little peek inside to make sure all was going well, we had to just wait and see how it went. Until birth, we couldn’t fathom a clue if our baby was healthy, growing, developing well or not. The first sonogram wasn’t even used until the late 50’s, and even then it posed a risk with radiation and such. Now, we get a sonogram to make sure everything is okay. We can even get them done electively just to see the gender of the baby.
15 Bottle feeding only
While “breast is best” is highly recommended nowadays, in the past it went through a stage of being almost forbidden. It was asked that we only bottle feed, as breast milk was seen as unsanitary and crude. Never mind we breastfeed for thousands years before, doctors would advise not doing it for risk of spreading germs or filth to the baby. We know now that it isn’t true, breastfeeding is as safe as bottle feeding. Some people even say it’s more safe, and the better way. In the world we live in now, it’s your choice to bottle or breastfeed your baby, you decide which is safer for them or better for them depending on their personal needs. As long as the baby is fed and growing healthily, it doesn’t matter.
14 Make room for mom
Even now, we can expect our moms, mothers-in-law, or another close relative, to come around often to help with the baby. In the past, we would literally move these people in to help us in the first few months after having a baby. Nothing like someone coming to live with you while you’re trying to get used to living with a new human to make things go smoothly, right? It’s not that we don’t welcome all of the help we can get, but it can be very stressful to have our moms around, wanting to help and advise us on everything under the sun. It wasn’t just a suggestion in the past, it was expected to happen. Thankfully, now, we don’t have to try making room for mom. Even if she’ll still be over a lot, anyways.
13 Have A Drink For Two
In the past, we didn’t know the effects of drinks and smoke on anyone’s body. It wasn’t unheard of for a doctor to prescribe either to a person, for any number of reasons. That included pregnant women. You would be offered a drink while at a pregnancy check up, your doctor was also probably smoking away while talking to you about your growing baby bump. There were no worries over the mother’s health or the baby’s development. It was common to smoke and drink the entire time, before, during, and after pregnancy. It was thought to help keep the mom calm and relaxed, and the baby be born relaxed too. Today, we know how dangerous drinking and smoking is to a growing unborn baby. No doctor would ever recommend using either, they advise against both strongly.
12 Less Gym Time
Women who were pregnant in the past were handled with “kid gloves”. They weren’t allowed to do most things they could before getting pregnant. Including simply lifting their arms over our heads, much less exercising. It used to be believed that lifting your arms over your head would wrap the umbilical cord around the baby’s neck. Thus, it was strongly suggested to avoid doing almost everything, even by doctors. Now, we know it’s not true. We can reach up above our heads without danger to the baby, we can even exercise and lift weights without risking our soon-to-be child’s welfare.
11 A Mother’s Beauty Tells The Baby’s Gender
Sonograms or ultrasounds are still pretty new today, they were entirely unheard of in the past! We didn’t know the baby’s gender until we had the baby, or until we looked at the “facts” of the time. It was believed that a mother’s beauty could tell us what gender the baby would be born with. The myth said that if a mother lost any beauty while pregnant, she was having a girl. So, if she grew more beautiful, she would have a boy. Never mind hormonal effects on a woman and her looks, or how tired she was or wasn't from pregnancy. If you lost some of your beauty, you were having a little girl, if your hair was more shiny and your looks "improved", you were having a boy.
10 No Spicy Foods!
Spicy foods were entirely out of the question in the past! You couldn’t eat anything spicy or even with too much flavor, it was discouraged by everyone, even by doctors of the time. This practice was because people used to believe the spicy food could blind the baby, burning their developing eyes while they’re growing. It was also believed it could cause miscarriages or early labor. We know now that this isn’t true at all. The only thing we risk with eating spicy food is heartburn, the baby is entirely unaffected and might even encourage cravings for something spicy.
9 Fashion sense
Fashion has always changed, this is true for the clothes we'd wear while pregnant, too. Maternity clothes in the past were meant to hide the pregnancy. Being pregnant was supposed to be hushed, regardless if you were married. Very little clothes were made for pregnant women during this time, but what was made was just to help hid your growing baby bump. It's sad, but that was the custom of the time. Thankfully, nowadays, we've grown to love our bumps, embracing them and showing them off. We're creating life! We need to share that joy, show it off, spread that joy!
8 Don’t cut your hair
It was once believed that cutting your hair while pregnant could damage the baby's vision, again. In pregnant life today, we’re advised not to color our hair in the first trimester, and some even suggest not coloring it during any part of your pregnancy. Cutting your hair is fine, though. But in the past, even a trim could risk your child’s sight. Some even speculated it could cut the baby’s life in half, or damage their talking or motor development. Even in the past, there was no link provided between the two, no correlation between cutting your hair and your baby’s health. It started sometime way back in the day and people continued to worry about it for hundreds of years to come.
7 Full moon full of births
The moon has a lot of effects on the earth. It can move the tides in the ocean and make animals act crazy. During a full moon, it used to be believed that more babies would be born. If the moon was at its fullest and you were close to delivery, it was thought you would probably have your baby that night. The full moon was supposed to affect the pregnant belly and cause many babies to be born. Doctors and nursing staff would say the same, getting ready for extra deliveries the entire time. There is no scientific link between the two. Birth rates have nothing to do with the moon, in all reality.
6 Never look at an animal
Of all the strange practices of the past, this one has to be one of the most strange. It was believed that if you looked at an ugly animal, your baby would take on aspects of that animal. Both physically and mentally, your child would resemble the animal. We all know children are very similar to animals, they’re dirty and get into everything and rely on us for so much. But there’s zero connection between anything you look at and how your child will look and be once born. And, besides there being no scientific evidence of this idea, no baby can be ugly. Every baby is unique and beautiful in their own way, and every mother can see how gorgeous their new baby is.
5 Wait on gifts until after birth
There were many cultures that restricted getting gifts while pregnant. You could get gifts after you have the baby, but getting a gift while pregnant risks bringing in evil spirits or misfortune, and increases the risk of miscarriages or stillbirths. This went as far as to forbid buying anything for the baby, reviving anything even if it wasn't a gift, or opening any gifts or baby items before the baby arrived. It's all fear based and very much just superstition. Get gifts, open them, get ready for your baby, there is no risk of any bad happening from doing this.
4 Don’t rub your baby bump
Another practice of pregnancy past was to avoid rubbing your belly too much. It was believed that if you rubbed your belly bump, and the unborn baby, then you risked spoiling your baby. Some people also believed that rubbing your belly, or letting anyone else rub your belly, would open up the unborn baby to evil spirits, calling them to come claim the baby with their own soul instead of the intended one. This is, of course, another superstition! In fact, after the first dozen weeks, it's good to rub your belly! Your new baby can sense touch, it knows you're there, already loving them and wanting to hold them. It helps increase that already forming bond between the two of you, too.
3 Eat oily food to speed up labor
Even now, in this day and age, people suggest drinking castor oil or eating pizza or even donuts to increase labor. It was very common in the past, to the point some doctors would even prescribe castor oil or suggest oily or greasy foods when a woman was close to her due date. We know that isn’t true, though. All oily foods or castor oil will do is make you sick to your stomach, and make that last bit of pregnancy miserable. Other than medicine used by doctors in hospitals, there is no way to speed up labor. It’ll come when it wants, drinking or eating anything special won’t make it happen any sooner or faster.
2 Heartburn for a hairy baby
A common practice and belief of the past dictated that, if you have heartburn, your baby would have a full head of hair. However, now we know that heartburn is actually just a common symptom of pregnancy, one of the most common ones even. Increased hormone levels and the larger size and pressure of your pregnant tummy are a big cause, as well as your digestive track slowing down. Many women get acid reflux and heartburn, especially further into the pregnancy. There is no link between the heartburn and if your baby will have hair at all, especially not if your baby will have a lot of hair.
1 Literally cut labor pain in half
Labor pains are horrible, even with pain medicine and moving around in different positions, we still face a lot of pain with labor. In the past, however, they believed that putting a knife under your pillow would help cut labor pains in half, decreasing the amount of pain we have to go through when we have our baby. It's not true, we know that, but in the past even some doctors would recommend placing a knife under your pillow. The bigger the knife the more pain was cut, the longer it was under your pillow the more effective it would be. In truth, no amount of attempts to cut labor pains will work, unfortunately. At least it won’t last forever, once the baby is born, the pain is entirely gone.