Wednesday, Oct. 21, 1942
First rule for pregnant women in the 40’s: Don’t use the word “pregnant.” You are in “the family way” or “a delicate condition.”
Other rules would surprise you. During the pregnancy many women were likely to smoke and drink. This wasn’t considered harmful and was even encouraged by popular culture to help a woman relax. The smoking part shouldn’t be a surprise: according to my father, cartons of cigarettes were regularly given out to medical interns and residents as a kind of extra payment.
But a 1947 Canadian government pamphlet advised against watching certain movies or reading certain books. The experience could affect the nervous system and harm the unborn baby. That rules out two Disney blockbusters in the theaters in 1942: “Bambi” and “Dumbo.” Despite being cartoons, both, as these trailers make clear, were disturbing stories about abused or orphaned animals. Instead of such movies, the pamphlet recommended other activities such as playing bridge – but not too often
Some of the advice is still sensible: Husbands should be tolerant of mood swings. Pregnant women should avoid crowds and shouldn’t read obstetrics textbooks since they focus on possible complications.
And watch out for well-meaning friends: “During the course of your pregnancy, do not listen to versions of their labours given to you by friends. They are likely to exaggerate the details of their experience, and give you a false impression and cause misgivings.” What would the pamphlet make of all blogs advising pregnant women today!
No letters today.