Caroline, just a few months away from becoming a grandma for the first time, blogs about the changing world of pregnancy!
With a daughter who is expecting her first baby in July I am struck over and over again by how much things have changed since I had my children in the 1980s. In fact it seems that apart from the way in which a baby is conceived and its exit route into the world nine months later, nothing is quite the same!
There was certainly no finding out that you were pregnant at such an early stage as my daughter did. In fact when I was pregnant with my son thirty odd years ago you had to wait until you were potentially six weeks pregnant before you could go to your GP to ask for a pregnancy test to be done. This involved sending a urine sample to the hospital and waiting almost a week for the result to be sent to your doctor! At least by the 80s pregnancy tests did not involve the death of any rabbits as was the case when my mother was pregnant in the 50s (at that time a woman’s urine was injected into a female rabbit and if the woman was pregnant the rabbit’s ovaries would show certain changes. Sadly the rabbit had to be killed for the necessary examination to be carried out).
At 25 weeks into the pregnancy my daughter has already had several scans and is soon to have a 4D scan. We have loved seeing the photos and have been amazed at just how detailed they are. Finding out the sex of the baby has been an added bonus. In my first pregnancy scans were in their infancy and I was only offered one at six months. The image was so indistinct that all I could see was an amorphous blob and there was certainly no invitation to find out the baby’s sex.
Choice of hospital is a new innovation too. With the advent of the Internet there is so much information available, both in terms of hospital statistics and anecdotal accounts from women themselves, that the mother-to-be can make an informed choice. In my day, even if we had had a choice, it would have been difficult to arm yourself with sufficient information to know what to do for the best. All we could hope for was that we would be spared the indignity of the shave and enema which was still de rigeur in many hospitals, although the NCT tried their best to arm their women with the confidence to resist such a procedure!
We were pretty much in the dark in the 80s regarding the development of our baby as the pregnancy progressed. I remember our local library having an expensive text book which showed drawings of the unborn baby at key stages in the pregnancy and I used to go along periodically to have a look. Nowadays of course there are numerous websites and even apps which tell you what size the baby is at each week, what they are up to in the womb and how the mother-to-be can expect to be feeling.
The Internet is of course a double edged sword and in a way having as much information can be a source of worry for the pregnant woman (and her mother!). I had certainly never heard that it was dangerous to lie on your back when pregnant because of the risk of reduced blood flow.
My son-in-law has become an expert in what foods should be avoided in pregnancy. In my day we knew that alcohol was a no-no (although many chose to ignore the advice and still drank Guinness, for example, to “keep their iron levels up”). No-one, however, knew to avoid things like unpasteurised cheese, pate, shell fish, rare meat and the rest of the cornucopia of foods that are advised against. In fact as late as the 90s my cousin’s wife, admittedly living in Paris at the time, was consuming steak tartare (raw minced steak) on a regular basis with gusto!
Maternity clothes too have undergone a transformation. In the 80s we hid under voluminous tents whilst nowadays women are rightly proud of their bumps, even choosing to wear tiny bikinis on the beach and at the pool, unlike the strange concoctions involving swimsuits with little frilly skirts which were popular when I was pregnant.
I’m sure that once the baby arrives I will find out that I am hopelessly out of date in that area too. The 80s after all was a time when we were told that it was dangerous to lie a baby any way other than on its front and that we should get the baby sleeping in its own room at the earliest opportunity.
Lots of things may have changed but one thing’s the same and that’s the joyous anticipation that we are all feeling at the thought of welcoming a little miracle into the world!