From Maternity Clothes to Pregnancy Technology: How Pregnancy Has Evolved Over the Years

Elizabeth Yepez, MD is a board certified ObGyn and Clinical Instructor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Medicine. Dr. Yepez has focused much of her career in eliminating racial and socioeconomic health disparities. Much of this is through women’s health education, teaching women about their bodies and encouraging them to be engaged in decisions about their health and well-being. Dr. Yepez promotes empowerment of women and active participation in our communities.

Not much that has changed about the biological process of pregnancy over time (and hopefully not much will!), but as an obstetrician, I have seen a change in the way women incorporate the process of pregnancy into their daily lives. Over the years, I have noticed a shift toward more woman embracing their pregnancy and not allowing their “bump” to slow them down. Below are five ways that I’ve noticed pregnancy change over the years – it’s a story of the uber-chic, tech-savvy, ultra-fit, power woman of today.

1. How soon a woman can tell she is pregnant.

While we live in an era of instant gratification, there are still some things in life that we have to wait for. Trying to figure out whether you had intercourse at just the right window of time for conception is one of those things. This initial little piece of information is something that couples trying to conceive must anxiously wait for month after month (some for as long as a year) prior to becoming pregnant. It’s nice to know that the length a woman needs to wait to find out she is pregnant is something we have seen change over the years. It used to be that we had to wait days after a missed menses before “peeing on a stick” can give us the answer we were anxiously awaiting. Today, however, thanks to the FIRST RESPONSE™ Gold™ Digital Pregnancy Test, that time is cut almost in half! Now women can find out if she’s pregnancy as soon as 6 days prior to the first day of her missed period. When you are anxiously waiting, everyday counts and the sooner you know, the sooner you can start the journey to a healthy pregnancy.

2. More and more women are postponing pregnancy until once they have established themselves in their careers, settled into their married life or found that special someone.

In other words, we are not rushing into the baby-making phase of our life, and as an obstetrician I have seen the repercussions of that on many different levels. On the one hand, this makes for more family-ready parents. However, the fact that our peak fertility years are in our mid-20’s cannot be ignored. The older we get the older our eggs get. Older eggs mean decreased quantity and quality of oocytes, which translates into a more difficult time getting pregnant and staying pregnant. Women over the age of 35 are especially at risk for infertility and experiencing a higher number of miscarriages while trying to become pregnant. One trend that has definitely increased over the years is the use of assisted reproductive technology – such as in vitro fertilization (IVF). Older women in general (and especially those making use of IVF) have a higher risk of a multiple pregnancy (twins or triplets).

Older women also have a higher risk of chromosomal errors in their pregnancies. A woman who is 40 has around a 1 in 40 chance of having a pregnancy affected by Down Syndrome. For this reason healthcare providers are offering more genetic testing during the prenatal period than ever before. Specifically, a new test that can detect the fetal DNA in mom’s blood as early as 10 weeks of pregnancy is much more accurate than our previous method of testing for chromosomal errors (a blood test from mom paired with an ultrasound of the fetus). This new obstetrics technology is definitely an exciting new trend, however not all insurances cover the cost and it is still not recommended for routine, low-risk patients, but should be a part of the conversation with your OB.

Being pregnant at an older age poses a higher risk of medical conditions during pregnancy, such as diabetes and hypertension. So a focus on diet, exercise and weight management during the pregnancy period has been a very important topic in prenatal visits over the last 5 – 10 years. And being healthy at any age is always a great thing!

3. A noticeable difference in being pregnant today from even 7 years ago when I had my son, is just the sheer number of “STUFF” available to new moms.

By “stuff” I mean everything from pregnancy apps, 4D ultrasounds, gadgets of every kind, the ability to control how and when you find out the sex of your baby, and at the click of “SHARE” – the ability to show the world the fetus growing inside of you and let them hear its’ heart beat for the first time with you… pretty amazing.

More women get more ultrasounds now than ever before. The fascination with 4D ultrasounds has grown significantly over the years, so much so that it has become a business. The problem is that there is an ideal time to perform 4D ultrasounds and your baby may not always cooperate during an ultrasound exam. The purpose of an obstetrical sonogram is to assure that the growth and vital organs are developing correctly. If we are able to get a good picture for your scrapbook, we do our best as we know that memories are important for us all. However, some insurances may not cover additional ultrasounds so be careful when asking for more than what your OB recommends.

4. Long gone are the days of over-sized maternity blouses and bellowing dresses meant to hide the pregnant woman. Oh no!

Today it is “all about the BUMP!” Form fitting, bright, “here I am in all my pregnant-glory” maternity clothes are all the rage. With most top designers having a maternity line, there is no excuse for looking frumpy during pregnancy. In addition, all eyes are on you! Social media does not allow you to slack on the wardrobe while preggers! More and more women are posting pics on Instagram and Facebook during all stages of their pregnancy, from the initial ultrasound, to monthly belly shots, to the final baby shot in the delivery room. It is all about flaunting and not hiding the belly these days!

Pregnancy is fashionable – even couture! And we have Hollywood to thank for that one as celebrities walk the red carpet with their big pregnant belly and stroll their babies around in thousand dollar strollers. I definitely appreciate this new trend and love that more and more women are learning to love their newly transformed body.

5. Women are more health conscious during pregnancy.

Over the last ten years I have seen a change in how women take care of themselves during pregnancy. Women are more health conscious and more aware of the effects of taking medications, smoking, drinking, and gaining excess weight in pregnancy. This awareness is a consequence of multiple factors. There has been more evidence to show that poor health practices have effects on both maternal and fetal outcomes. Obesity, for example, increases the risk for maternal diabetes, hypertension and can increase the risk for a cesarean delivery. In the fetus, it can lead to an increased risk for prematurity, stillbirth, as well as childhood obesity.

Physicians are doing a better job of communicating this information to patients, and encouraging healthy diets and lifestyles during pregnancy. Patients want to be healthy and choose not to take medication unless they really have to.

Women no longer treat pregnancy like a disabling condition. Instead, they continue running marathons, corporations and households (and sometimes all three) while pregnant. With more exercise classes geared toward pregnant woman, it makes it easier to stay fit when you have your pregnant Pilates class to go to every Tuesday!