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Pregnancy and birth in the 1970s

Pregnancy and birth 1970sWe all know things have changed quite a bit since the 1970s – especially when it comes to labour and birth. The general idea is the same of course – baby is on the inside, baby comes out – but the circumstances surrounding the birth experience have certainly altered.

When I was preparing for the birth of baby number three I was able to literally compare notes with my mother, who had found some interesting papers during a spring clean.

A small and slightly brown envelope was uncovered and in it contained the information she received from her doctor to prepare for the birth of her first baby (me!) and the subsequent week-long hospital stay.

And therein was the first marked change – I stayed less than 24 hours with my three.

But the most interesting document was: Rules Relating to the Admission of Husbands to Labour Ward.

Besides the assuming use of the word “husbands” rather than “fathers” or “partners” the rules that caught my attention were the following:

  • During various procedures, including admission, a husband will be asked to leave the labour room. He should be prepared to do so promptly. (Yes, god forbid he see any lady parts … They do know he was there when she fell pregnant right?)
  • In general, husbands will be permitted to be present only during the first stage of labour, but if present during the birth of the baby, the husband is required to remain at the head of the bed where he can assist the patient. (During one of my births, the midwife had my partner acting as one-half of a human stirrup at one point)
  • Smoking is strictly forbidden in Labour Ward. This is due to the presence of Explosive GASES. (Not because of the dire health effects on the birthing mum and newborn baby …)

Father at birth 1970sFather at birth 1970s


The other document I enjoyed reading was Mum’s Shopping for Baby List – mostly as I noticed that a pack of 12 flat cloth nappies is still roughly the same price as it was 35+ years ago. Yikes. Cheap pram though!


shopping for new baby 1970s


And check out the Maternity Ward Rules – most interesting is the Feed Times. I’m still not sure what happened between 8pm and 8am and Mum can’t remember exactly either. Love the flexibility of the Rooming In By Request too!


maternity ward 1970s


And here’s an extract of a pamphlet written by her doctor: Heath Care During Pregnancy

A few stand out points include:

  • During the later stages if pregnancy, automobile riding is permitted, providing bumps in the road are avoided and the ride is not too prolonged (lucky! How else were they going to get to the hospital)
  • Marital relations should be avoided during the last six weeks of pregnancy. (Eek … What about curries and long walks?)
  • The breasts, if pendulous, should supported by a comfortable, well-fitting suspending brassiere. (Hehehe … Pendulous… )

Anyway…. Have a read yourself!

pregnancy manual 1970spregnancy manual 1970s

Thanks Mum!

Main image credit: 2nix/123RF Stock Photo

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6 comments so far -

  1. Hi Rebecca, I am a midwifery student and I am wondering if you would permit me to share the photos you posted of the doctor’s instructions on preparing for birth. We have been discussing changes in maternity care over the last 50 years, and it would be so helpful to have an example to show the class.
    Kind regards,

  2. Great article, Rebecca! Amazing to think I was born when these rules were in place. I should imagine what would have happened between 8pm and 8am re the feeding schedule was the bubs were in the nursery overnight where the 3 hourly regime continued, or if Mum was bold enough to approach Sister and request rooming-in, she got to demand-feed or make her own schedule. It is actually inspiring how far we’ve come inasmuch as it was obviously very much the domain of everyone – midwives, Mums and obstetricians – but hubby. At least hubby is getting more of a role now.

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