The experience of being pregnant and giving birth has changed dramatically over the years. Below, learn how the advice and opportunities offered to today's moms-to-be compare to those given to women from previous generations.
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When Kristina Box, MD, FACOG, began her career 28 years ago, a blood test was required to confirm pregnancy earlier than the six-week mark. Today, however, women trying to conceive can learn of their pregnancies right at four weeks, says Jordan Craig, MD, general obstetrician/gynecologist with OB/GYN of Indiana. "Home pregnancy tests are incredibly sensitive," she says. "People can expect to test positive really early, right around the time they miss their period or even a couple of days before."
Prenatal care and education
The technology available for prenatal testing and monitoring has likewise seen major advancements in recent years. New circulating cell-free fetal DNA tests allow doctors to non-invasively screen for chromosomal issues such as Down syndrome or other trisomies, says Dr. Craig. Ultrasound quality has also improved, with 3D ultrasounds becoming increasingly standard.
Gender can now be seen as early as 15 to 16 weeks for some babies, although Dr. Box prefers technicians wait until 18 to 20 weeks to provide confirmation. "The one thing you don't want to do is call that wrong," she says.
Today's expectant mothers can choose from a wide variety of childbirth and infant care classes, says Dr. Craig. Many women also take advantage of online resources. "I have patients that come in very, very well educated," she says. Of course, there can be a downside to using Google to search for answers. Patients frequently come in with inaccurate information, or information that matches what they want to hear, says Dr. Box. Dr. Craig tries to direct her patients to specific websites that provide accurate information.
The advice given to expectant mothers has changed significantly over the years as well. "My mom was told it is okay to drink and smoke while pregnant," reports reader Julie W. via an informal survey on the Indy's Child Facebook page. Dr. Box confirms that during her mother's generation, many women smoked, and babies were born smaller as a result. While alcohol was once used to help prevent preterm labor, today no amount of alcohol is deemed acceptable during pregnancy by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, she says. In contrast, while exercise was discouraged in the past, now exercise during pregnancy is viewed as very safe.
The big day
In the late 1950's and 1960's, births typically took place in a single large delivery room, with laboring patients separated by curtains, says Dr. Box. Today, many hospitals have moved to a model of "single room Maternity care," which allows patients to stay in the same room throughout their labor, delivery and recovery. Dr. Craig encourages her patients to consider their personal preferences regarding the delivery process and pain control. Patients are often able to incorporate tools such as wireless monitoring, a birthing tub or a birth ball into their labor, she says.
Reader Melissa M. says at the time of her birth in 1976, the hospital would not allow her father or any other family members in the room with her mother. "Fathers waited in the waiting room for the news," concurs reader Aszura T. In contrast, Dr. Craig says many fathers today help encourage the mother throughout her labor. "Most of my dads are just right up there, involved in everything, wanting to see everything," she says.
Pregnancy and birth stories are a unique and fascinating part of our personal histories. Why not get the women in your family together and swap stories today?
We asked our Indy's Child Facebook readers for stories about their maternity and delivery experience versus their mothers'. Here are a few of their comments.
Tags: Featured Article, In This Issue, Maternity
[My mom] delivered me and my twin breech, btw she didn't know she had twins until she woke up! No idea for 9 months that she was having twins! This was 1962! – Carla G.
Mom is 71 born and raised in Mexico, had all of her 7 kids natural no epidural. My grandmother was the midwife… – Daisy A.
My mom was able to spend five days at least, in the hospital, and fathers waited in the waiting room for the news. – Aszura T.
My mom was in labor for 3 days with me. She overheard the doctor say "if she is still alive tonight, we'll do a c section." Needless to say she and I both lived. – Summer S.
I have 9 children and the first one 32 years ago was so different than the last one 10 years ago...My Mom gave birth at home, all four of us girls, and within hours after she cooked and cleaned before my Dad came home from work. – Susanne D.