How Has Childbirth Changed in This Century?

mother with new babyChildbirth itself has not changed at all! Babies are still born today in the same way that that they have been born for generations. But many things associated with childbirth have changed, including:

  • Women's expectations of childbirth
  • Pain management options
  • The economics of childbirth and the system of healthcare
  • The technology used during pregnancy and birth.

These factors have greatly changed women's childbirth experiences.

How have women's expectations of childbirth changed?

Today, a woman having a baby in an industrialized nation can reasonably expect that both she and her baby will have a healthy journey through pregnancy and birth. Childbearing is generally safe and does not represent illness or disability. A hundred years ago, many women faced childbirth with some fear because they knew of a mother or baby who had died. Today, however, there is some expectation that changes in childbirth technology not only minimize risks that might have led to death or disability a century ago, but promise a perfect outcome.

Additionally, in many parts of the world today, women can plan their pregnancies and tend to have fewer children than a century ago. This has created a culture where each pregnancy and baby generates intense attention.

Expectations of pain management have also changed. One hundred years ago, most children throughout the world were born at home. Although many factors contributed to the movement of childbirth from the home to the hospital, one important reason for this change was the development of pain-reducing childbirth anesthesia, which was only available at the hospital.