When the NHS started 70 years ago, the civilised and incredible support and healthcare that is provided today wasn’t something expectant mothers had to look forward to. Being pregnant in the 1950/60’s was quite frankly terrifying, and the experience for most women was unpleasant, gruelling and scary. But what was it like to be pregnant before epidurals, assisted births and the incredible medical advancements of the 21st century? Well…
Forget home pregnancy tests, there were no pregnancy test in the 1960’s! If a period was missed, it was nothing to be concerned about but if a second one was missed, a woman would visit her GP. This visit to the GP however usually just consisted of receiving a confirmation by the doctor feeling for small abnormalities on the outside of the woman’s stomach… not very accurate at all! The final confirmation would be the expanding stomach and only then did women really throw themselves into preparing for a baby!
Once you found out that you were pregnant however, you were considered to be frail and weak. This false observation meant that pregnant women were encouraged to refrain from lifting heavy objects, reaching for things over their heads and walking too much. T
his weakness extended to women not being able to get ‘over excited’ and women assumed that by staying indoors and engaging in recreational activities from the comfort of their armchair was the best way to ensure their baby was healthy. However, when women became pregnant, not everything changed! Smoking and drinking were not discouraged and most women continued to drink and smoke as normal with the belief it would not have any effect on their unborn child!
It wasn’t just habits that were misunderstood… if a woman was deemed to have gained TOO much weight during pregnancy, she would be prescribed a diet pill and encouraged to lose the weight! It seems that appearance was such a big deal for pregnant women in fact that they were encouraged by health visitor pamphlets that ‘it is always worth a woman’s while to take some pains with her appearance and never more so than during pregnancy’… so if you didn’t have your weight to worry about, you had your clothes too!
Check ups and hospital visits when pregnant were a thing of mystery… if a woman was at the hospital, people would just assume that she was pregnant. The woman’s blood pressure was taking and the usual nutritional advice was given out… she would then be allocated a prenatal clinic who would monitor her and occasionally dish out iron pills!
All we can say at Women in Healthcare UK is thank goodness we have been able to witness so many incredible medical advancements!
Do you know anyone that gave birth in the twilight years of the NHS (The 1950/60’s?)
Let us know about your stories if so!