Prenatal care has existed in one form or another virtually since the beginning of time. Throughout human history, there has never been a time when women didn’t have babies. Therefore, as early as the first natural birth of the primate that would one day become the modern human, some form of prenatal care was present. Initially, improvements to prenatal care ensured the perpetuation of the human species. Most if not all adjustments in the way a fetus is cared for was in response to some technology that could reduce infant mortality. Humans thought the Earth was a better place with us in it and sought to keep that going. Much of the vernacular we use today when referencing prenatal care is historically rooted in some reality of prenatal care past. The term “cesarean” wasn’t coined when describing the forcible removal of a troublesome fetus from the womb via surgery, but in fact was a Roman law which dictated that dying mothers have their abdomens cut open in order to extract the fetus before its lifeline expired. This was a form of prenatal care, as survival of the fetus was paramount especially if the mother was going to die anyway and wouldn’t be available to make more humans.
Obstetrical forceps date back to the 17th century. Although infant mortality may have been slightly higher in that age, initiatives existed for improving it. While we may consider extracting newborns with what were essentially salad tongs to be inhumane, it was a progressive step forward in 17th century English prenatal care. No longer are babies yanked from the birth canal using pliers but at the time, it was a logical solution that reduced infant mortality rates.
As a product of the 1980s, not only was I carried in a womb that was not afforded the extravagant benefits of 21st century prenatal care, but amazingly I turned out sort of normal. Prenatal care in the 80s was not barbaric, but it was nowhere near where it is today. How I survived I’ll never know. But my survival was not predicated on medieval prenatal care practices. Prenatal care in the 1980s was not dramatically different than it is now. My mother was advised to exercise and eat healthy. She was warned about the consequences of smoking and drinking during pregnancy. Thankfully for me, she chose to abide by most of these advices. While cigarette inhalation and fetal-alcohol syndrome did not negatively affect me, there are still lingering side effects from the hair bands and countless Richard Simmons work out videos I endured.
My mother, however, as a product of the 1950s, was placed under intense hardship by modern fetal standards. Her parents chain smoked and drank heavily. Exercise for them was walking one block to church one day a week. She was exposed to asbestos, lead-based paint, and the painful sounds of Woody Guthrie. It is a miracle she survived at all. There were no means to monitor her growth as a fetus. No real checks and balances to ensure she was even still alive in there. However, in the parlance of the time, prenatal care was at its climax. Conditions for a fetus had never been better. Looking back, my mother turned into a moderately normal and healthy human. She’s never smoked or drank. Never developed any addictions or poor habits. Never has been diseased or bedridden for any ailments. In fact, using her as a sample, one could argue the benefits of smoking and drinking during pregnancy.
This makes one wonder what the future of prenatal care has in store. 4-D sonograms are a reality. New parents are able to not only get a picture of their baby pre-birth, but can construct a probability of characteristics based on genetic predisposition and odds. With all this possible, the next step has to be eliminating pregnancy altogether and opening baby emporiums where parents can select their child from a variety of options much like buying a new car. Children will be available in rudimentary models and range from average to luxurious. Depending on the financial prosperity of the parents, the baby can be purchased with incentive plans and luxury packages. It will be the golden age of childbirth. Except there will be no actual “birthing.” With modern medicine now capable of keeping even the most destitute babies alive, Darwinism has been virtually eradicated from human evolution. The onus will be on the parents now to not cheap out when assembling their baby.
In recent news, the human population just climbed over the 7 billion plateau. With natural selection a non-factor in developed nations, the human population will only continue to increase until the planet can sustain no more. Excellent prenatal care is partially to blame for this. If every insect on Earth died today, the human population would be extinct within 50 years. If every human died today, the Earth would flourish endlessly until the Sun explodes. Think about that when you consider the quality of prenatal care in your part of the world. In most cases, fetal and infant care has become so good that the mortality rate has declined to minimal proportions. In areas of the world where prenatal care is still lacking like sub-saharan Africa, mothers will typically spend the entirety of their fertile, adult lives making babies since they understand that just like tadpoles, a percentage simply will not make it. However, due in large part to medical advances in the third world, even babies that just a few years ago would have succumbed to natural selection are surviving.
If the Earth was a newborn baby, it would already be dead. Think about where the next billion people are going to live. The unstoppable progress of prenatal care has increased the need for a healthy planet for all these humans to inhabit. Unfortunately, no one seems to put much thought into where their grandchildren’s grandchildren are going to live. Odds are now in favor of the vast majority of children surviving. Of course, this is a great thing and the chief goal of improved prenatal care. However, unless the human race becomes a little more responsible, it won’t matter how good prenatal care is. We’ll all be dead from overpopulation.