logo - Join me in the 1900s mid C20th
The webmaster, Pat Cryer, as an older child

Prenatal care
in 1960s Britain

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baby

I had my first baby in 1965.

In those days pregnancy was not like it is today.


Pregnancy testing: how to confirm pregnancy

The understanding that a pregnancy was real dawned slowly.

There was no pregnancy test in the 1960s - at least not for ordinary women. If a period was missed, a woman wondered, and if a second period was missed, she went to her local GP.

The local GP - who always seemed to be a male doctor - didn't normally give any sort of examination, although some doctors did give a likely pregnancy confirmation by feeling externally for small differences in a woman's stomach.

For me, when I told my doctor that I had missed two periods, an appointment was simply made for me to attend the local hospital to get myself registered as an expectant mother.

The hospital didn't examine me, either. The staff there just worked on the assumption that because a woman was there, she must be pregnant. They just got her into the system, as, after all, she could easily be removed from it later if she turned out not to be pregnant. The 'system' involved taking blood pressure and giving out nutritional advice. I can't remember if there was a blood test, but I don't think there was. The woman was also allocated a pre-natal clinic which would monitor progress and run antenatal classes. I seem to remember that iron pills were prescribed, but I can't be sure.

So you can see that the understanding that a pregnancy was real dawned slowly. Morning sickness was an early sign. Not that it was necessarily in the morning and it could be an aversion to particular foods rather than actual sickness. I went off coffee; other women went off tea and others fancied large quantities of unusual foods.

Soon of course an expanding stomach gave the final confirmation, and women threw themselves into preparation for having a baby.

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Antenatal classes and natural childbirth

I dutifully went along to antenatal classes.

In general the talks told me what I am sure that most of us knew. They were also rather patronising, with, for example, various foodstuffs being discussed as felt pictures of them were stuck onto a felt board. I do of course appreciate that the talks must have been better in some areas than in others.

There was a great emphasis on what was called 'natural childbirth' which was a form of relaxation supposed to counter the pain of childbirth, and a lot of time was spent in the classes practising it. I believed in it totally, probably because as a young woman, I had never experienced real pain and I was confident that so many experts couldn't be wrong in propounding it. I practised it daily at home. In the event, for me at least, I felt that it had been a huge con, as I had never before experienced so much pain. Presumably some women benefited.

If you can add anything to this page or provide a photo to illustrate pregnancy arrangements at the time, I would be pleased to hear from you.

Pat Cryer, webmaster

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This website Join me in the 1900s is a contribution to the social history of everyday life in 20th century Britain from the early 1900s to about 1960, seen through personal recollections and illustrations, with the emphasis on what it was like to live in those times.