Pregnant - Symptoms, Signs and Historical Changes
Women have been having babies since the beginning of human existence. And since this time, women have had to prepare for childbirth. The rituals of childbirth preparation have changed over the years, but the actual process of getting pregnant and having the baby never has. Ultimately, a pregnant woman needs to push her unborn child out of her body and then deliver the placenta. Childbirth has not changed in the modern era, unless there are medical complications, and a successful pregnancy has ended the same way for many, many generations. The biggest difference in our modern world is that fewer women die of childbirth complications in first world countries than they did in past centuries.
Childbirth Complications in the 17th Century
Childbirth complications in the 17th century were similar to potential complications in our modern world. But in the developed world we have the technology for medical intervention. A breech birth 150 years ago could cause the death of the mother if the midwife wasn't able to manipulate the pregnant belly to get the baby to flip either before labor started or during labor. Bleeding after the delivery of the child could happen as well. Both these complications can arise in the modern developed world, but medical professionals are often able to fix them. A breech birth might require an emergency c-section, but often an ultrasound will indicate if the baby has flipped into the head down position well before labor begins. If doctors determine there's no way the baby will be able to get into the standard birth position, a c-section can be scheduled. Bleeding can often be stopped with medication and surgery if necessary. If the mother has lost too much blood, a blood transfusion is possible.
Infections were common a century and a half ago. And there often weren't medications available to treat these infections which could ultimately cause the death of the mother and/or the death of the newborn.
Diagnosing Pregnancy the Traditional Way
In ancient times right through the early part of the 20th century there was no such thing as a pregnancy calendar. Ovulation couldn't be as readily predicted although there are some indications that midwives knew, even in ancient cultures, that "relations" (sexual intercourse) during certain times of the month more likely resulted in a pregnancy. They also knew that breastfeeding seemed to delay pregnancy and this pregnancy info was passed through generations for women to use a form of birth control. In other cultures, men were simply forbidden from having sex with their wives for a specified period after the birth of a child to prevent a woman from constantly being pregnant.
There were also no blood or urine pregnancy tests or ultrasounds until fairly recently in human history. There was a time, not too long ago, when pregnancy wasn't officially diagnosed until almost mid-pregnancy.
The first of many pregnancy symptoms is a missed period. Although there can be other causes for this, it was often the first way a woman suspected she was pregnant. It still is, but now a woman simply takes an at-home test to find out for sure. Traditionally, a woman had to wait for more pregnant signs.
Other signs a woman watched for in old fashioned pregnancy diagnosis were breast changes, fatigue, an increased need to urinate, nausea and Chadwick's sign. Chadwick's sign is an out-of-date term that refers to the change in the color of vaginal tissue to a bluish tinge when pregnant. It's caused by a change in blood flow to the area.
As a pregnancy progresses, signs like stretch marks, the linea nigra, or the first movements of the developing fetus between what we now know is 16 to 20 weeks of pregnancy.