While spending a few consecutive days with my mother-in-law, I became aware of the many shocking differences in how pregnancy was treated 30-40 years ago verses how it is treated today.
Instance 1: Weight Gain
Then: You were only to gain 20 pounds MAX or the doctor's yelled at you and then proceeded to guilt you by telling you how hard it would be to lose the weight. (I even read online that back then if you were gaining too much weight, you were advised to "skip lunch")
Now: Doctors want you to gain about 35 pounds if you're starting at a healthy BMI. I mean, I'm very well aware that every pound I gain is one I'll have to lose. For God's sake, I gained 40 pounds with Leighton, despite all of my hard work to try to stay under 35 pounds. Unfortunately, I'm on track to gain another 40 with kid #2. Crap.
Instance 2: Prenatal Care
Then: Pregnancy was about the mother, not the baby. Prenatal care focused on the mother and not the baby.
Now: Pregnancy and prenatal care are all about the baby, and the mother kind of comes second... you're like an incubator. I mean, anyone with a moderately annoying health concern is asked to sacrifice her own comforts for the sake of the baby (i.e. insomnia, headaches, etc... deal with it, it's best for the baby... it could cause Autism - just kidding... seems like anything could be a trigger for Autism these days..)
Instance 3: Rules and Restrictions
Then: There were no restrictions on what you could or could not do, or on what you could or could not eat. You could smoke, drink, do whatever.... OMG - just don't gain more than 20 pounds!
Now: Clearly there are so many rules and restrictions nowadays that you need to take a class to learn about all of them! No honey, no lunch meat, no tea, no caffeine, no soft cheeses, no alcohol, no smoking, no stress, no raw eggs, eat organic foods, sleep on your left side, don't dye your hair, only take Tylenol (I HATE TYLENOL!), pretty much be miserable for 10 months... but it will be worth it to have a healthy baby...
Instance 4: Hospital Stay
Then: Having a baby meant a LONG hospital stay. 5 - 10 days depending on natural or C-section birth
Now: Healthy, natural, vaginal births mean a few days in the hospital, and a C-section is just one day longer.
Instance 5: In-Labor Guests
Then: Fathers could not be present during the birth
Now: You can have an entourage in the room during a birth, and fathers are encouraged to be present.
Instance 6: Breastfeeding
Then: There was no pressure to breastfeed. Benefits were downplayed because it was seen as an inconvenience for the mothers.
Now: If you don't make the decision to breastfeed, you are the worst mother ever because you are selfish, and you are not choosing the best food option for your baby. It's not about you, remember?
Instance 7: Mother-Baby Bonding
Then: There was mandatory separation of mother and baby in the hospital for 24 hours after birth for "observation" in the newborn nursery. The baby did not stay with the mother in the hospital room; it was only brought to her for feedings. Everything else was done by the nurses (baths, night feedings, diaper changing, etc.).
Now: They want you to have skin-to-skin contact ASAP - as soon as that kid shoots out and and is covered in goo (gross... not for this mother. Clean that baby first!).
Instance 8: Solid Foods
Then: Babies could start solid foods at 6 weeks - cereal, then fruits, then veggies.
Now: Babies aren't supposed to start solid foods until 4-6 months because they need the nutrition that can only come from breastfeeding or formula.
We have come a long way in 40 years, but despite the major differences, many children born in the 70's have turned out to be completely normal, healthy, and well-adjusted. Doesn't it seem like babies and children today have many more issues than they did back then (Autism, ADD, allergies of every kind, etc.)? What accounts for that? Aren't we SO careful these days? Are we overly careful?
I'm not saying we should all start drinking and smoking during our pregnancies... but it makes me wonder. Imagine in another 40 years what our children will be telling us about how archaic our way of thinking about pregnancy and birth was. What things will we learn (40 years too late) that we should have been doing or not doing? Think about it.
Image Credit: Palm Partners Recovery Center (http://blog.palmpartners.com/effects-of-alcohol-on-pregnant-women/)
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