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Come A Long Way, Baby: How Childbirth & Prenatal Care Have Changed


Come A Long Way, Baby: How Childbirth & Prenatal Care Have Changed

Doula? Epidural? Skin-to-skin? Seventy years ago, these terms would have meant nothing to pregnant women and their medical professionals. Thanks to new technologies, new research and new attitudes, prenatal care and childbirth have changed a great deal over the last seven decades. Today, a woman can learn that she’s pregnant just weeks after conception; find out her baby’s sex before the baby is born; choose from a range of birthing styles and labor support; and feel assured by the advanced technology available should complications arise or a medical intervention be necessary. Now routine, these elements of maternal care were once groundbreaking.

CaroMont Health is proud to help lead the way for better maternal care, better births and better outcomes in our region. From family-centered birthing suites to full postnatal support, our commitment to improving care for moms and babies keeps advancing. In honor of our 70th anniversary, and the thousands of healthy babies born under our care since 1946, we thought it’d be fun to take a look at how far national care has come.

  • From rabbits to double lines.

For centuries, women and their care providers relied on physical symptoms alone to confirm a pregnancy. In the 1930s, researchers discovered that if they injected rabbits with a woman’s urine, changes in the rabbit’s ovaries could be detected if the woman were pregnant. Although fairly accurate, this test was expensive and complicated, so pregnancy testing remained rare. The modern test as we know it, which detects the presence of hCG (the “pregnancy” hormone), wasn’t reliable until the early 1970s, and the home pregnancy test first hit the market in 1977. Now, you can test for pregnancy at home several days before a missed period and get results! Of course, if you test positive, we recommend visiting one of our practices to confirm the results and start prenatal care.

  • From imagining to seeing.
    Throughout the ages, so much of pregnancy has been a guessing game. Women have wondered about their baby’s sex, size and due date. They wondered if the pregnancy would progress normally, and if their child would have any abnormalities or complications. The invention of the ultrasound, along with other key fetal diagnostic or screening tools, has illuminated a once-mysterious process. Although invented in the 1950s in Scotland, the ultrasound was not widely used for prenatal care in America until the 1970s. In addition to determining the baby’s sex, the fetal ultrasound can provide critical information about the baby’s growth in utero, as well as screen for abnormalities or defects that may need to be addressed. Actually witnessing your baby move is a pretty powerful moment, too—and black-and-white ultrasound photos have become a pregnancy milestone for many families.
  • From tragedy to triumph.
    Babies born premature, before 37 weeks, often develop respiratory distress syndrome (RDS). Before the 1990s, this was terrible news for parents, as premature babies’ lungs were simply not developed enough to survive. Building on groundbreaking research first discovered in the 1950s, scientists created the first synthetic surfactants in the 1990s. This substance prevented RDS, giving premature babies a chance to survive while their lungs kept developing. The mortality rate from RDS has remarkably dropped from 90 percent to less than 5 percent today. Now, premature babies can be treated in CaroMont Health’s level III neonatal intensive care unit while they grow strong enough to go home.

Recent research has demonstrated the importance of the mother’s birth experience in establishing a bond with her child, setting a good foundation for the baby’s development and improving the mother’s mental health postpartum. That’s why CaroMont is passionate about providing the best family-centered care that supports mom, baby and the rest of the family as they welcome a new life into the world. We opened The Birthplace, the largest single-room maternity unit in the nation, in 2004, and have been part of thousands of inspiring birth experiences since. If you’d like to learn more about CaroMont, The BirthPlace or our family-centered birth philosophy, click here.

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