Gransnet forums

Ask a gran

Pregnancy in the 1970s

(89 Posts)
Freeandeasy Sun 17-Feb-19 16:59:32

I’m writing a book (for my own enjoyment, I might add) but in the remote possibility that it may get published (in my wildest dreams!) I want to get a few facts straight.

My character is 19, the date is 1976 and she has found out she is pregnant by her boyfriend. I was 20 in 1976 so I know a lot about the era, but I’m not sure how she could get a pregnancy test without seeing a doctor then.

I know family planning clinics were around then but my character, as I did then, lives in a small provincial town and the nearest clinic would be in a larger town/city.

I’m pretty sure that over the counter tests weren’t available then, but I have a vague recollection of a College friend of mine getting a test from the local chemist. When I say a test, I mean she bought a sample bottle and was told to bring it back and they then sent it away. She got the result about a week later, which, by the way, much to her relief, was negative.

Would this be feasible, do you think? I also vaguely remembering seeing notices in chemist’s windows advertising pregnancy tests.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

GrannyIris5 Sun 17-Feb-19 17:08:53

I had my first son in 1976 and a late period was all it took. Don’t remember having a ‘test’

KatyK Sun 17-Feb-19 17:14:13

My daughter was born in 1970. It was a case of missed period, seeing the doctor who told me to bring a urine sample in. He then gave me an internal examination and asked me which hospital I wished to be under and that was that.

KatyK Sun 17-Feb-19 17:14:48

I was 20.

Iam64 Sun 17-Feb-19 17:16:23

1972- missed one period, wait at least 2 weeks , see the doctor who'd check a urine sample, then subject you to an internal exam and refer you to the local maternity unit. No tests as we know them now.

Maggiemaybe Sun 17-Feb-19 17:19:47

Certainly by 1980, when I was first pregnant, over the counter tests were available, as I remember weeing on the stick doing one at home. It must have taken a few minutes for the result to come through as I had my last ever cigarette while we were waiting grin).

But they must have been fairly new or not very reliable as we didn't trust the result. I took a urine sample (in a normal small bottle) into the chemists in town to double-check. And yes, I'd to go back in for the result a few days later.

Ilovecheese Sun 17-Feb-19 17:21:02

I was pregnant in 1975. A test was available through the local chemist (take in a urine sample, they sent it off to a lab, went back for the result) but I lived in a large city (Manchester)

pensionpat Sun 17-Feb-19 17:21:45

In 1978 I became pregnant with younger son. I don’t think that home pregnancy kits were available, and a test via the GP took about 2 weeks to get results. I knew someone who actively supported LIFE, a Catholic anti-abortion organisation. They held testing kits. So she did one for me.

Marydoll Sun 17-Feb-19 17:22:35

I had my first child in 1979. I had a missed period, took urine sample to the doctor's, then had to phone a few days later from a phone box for the result.
I was then referred to the local maternity hospital, where I had an internal to confirm.
Oh so different in those days.
Many years later, teaching in my local community, I sent my friend to the pharmacy to buy a pregnancy test, as I didn't want anyone to see me.
What I didn't think about was that she was also well known and conclusions were jumped to! grin

Greenfinch Sun 17-Feb-19 17:33:21

I agree . My children were all born in the 70's and it was a trip to the doctor's with a urine sample.I don't remember any internal examinations.

Maggiemaybe Sun 17-Feb-19 17:37:15

I've remembered the name of my test - it was called Predictor. And when I googled it, the memories came flooding back. It was a test tube in a perspex box, with an angled mirror underneath, and you'd to wait 2 hours and see if a brown circle formed at the bottom of the tube. 2 hours!! shock I'm pretty sure these were state of the art in 1980, so not available much before then.

Fennel Sun 17-Feb-19 17:46:21

Sorry to sound cynical, but getting pregnant in those days (mine were in the 60's) wasn't such a big deal as it seems to be now. It just happened if you were in a relationship.
When I got pregnant with my first it was the time of the thalidomide scare and I remember going to the Dr. and he re-assured me.

grannyactivist Sun 17-Feb-19 17:57:00

I used a Predictor test in 1983, but confirmation of my first pregnancy in 1972 relied on me being a minimum of two weeks late for a period and then the doctor sending off a urine sample. The wait for the result was two working weeks. When my mum was pregnant her friends used to ask if the 'rabbit died?' A history of pregnancy tests is here:

MissAdventure Sun 17-Feb-19 18:03:40

Our local chemist did the urine tests where you handed it in and got the results some time (days?) later.

EllanVannin Sun 17-Feb-19 18:10:30

Both my pregnancies were in the 60's. Just a missed period told me I was pregnant and at 4 months I booked in to the maternity hospital. No scans, the consultant judged by feeling the size of the baby and if it hadn't turned at the given time he'd lay two hands on the abdomen and help it into position using a firm grip--------I know because it happened to me.
Just a couple of ante-natal visits to weigh and test urine and providing all was well you waited until the strong labour pains then made a call using a phone-box and a couple of pennies.
No fuss and palava, into the labour ward after a bath and a shave and that was that. Gas and air as required. I got extra-------a slap on my behind for moaning !!

BlueBelle Sun 17-Feb-19 18:23:17

67, 69 and 73 first one was completely alone in the Far East husband not very interested after the initial ‘action’ Breech baby they tried turning she went straight back and in those days you gave natural birth to a breech baby no Caesarians, (I had to have an X-ray with a ruler between my legs to see if my pelvis was going to be big enough, they decided it was) 1969 had my mum and dad around and 73 mum came for a few days to look after the other two
Ellen I went one better than you for my middle one by now I was back in uk and I got slapped in the face for making too much noise, but my boy got back at her as he peed all over her when she lifted him
No tests just a urine check
...oh and the enema before the birth oh I remember that even today

paddyann Sun 17-Feb-19 18:37:36

My first was 1977 ,I was 4 months pregnant before the Consultant decided I WAS pregnant and had spent almost a month of that in hospital.The baby was early and died at 4 days old.Baby two they were all over me like a rash.As soon as I suspected I might be I had fortnightly appointments was weighed and measured and had a special diet .Not allowed to put on more than a maximum of 20 pounds over the pregnancy . I spent a couple of months in hospital on bed rest .That was no bad thing as I came out after she was born ..right on her due date in a size 10 jeans that were big on me and was fit as a flea.
The consultant was brilliant but brutal ,he would raid the lockers and take away anything he thought we shouldn't have ,biscuits sweeties etc ,we had urine tests every day to chack hormone levels I seem to remember it was oestriols they measured.She was the healthiest happiest baby I could have hoped for .
When my daughter had her first there were mums on her ward who had put on 3 or 4 stone or more ,I was truly amazed they were allowed to gain that much.

shysal Sun 17-Feb-19 18:45:49

In the 60s the Hogben test involved sending urine to be injected into a frog or toad (I forget which), but by the 70s the Pregnosticon urine test took over. As others have said, it had to be sent away. I worked in the Chemical Pathology lab who sent them off.

Freeandeasy Sun 17-Feb-19 19:03:46

Thanks to all of you for your replies, particularly with your experiences of pregnancy and giving birth.

I’m 62 and never had children of my own, although I’m now step gran to 3 lovely young adults and a 13 year old boy.

I remember going on the pill when I was around 20 as I was terrified of getting pregnant. You had to see your GP to get the prescription.

A few girls I went to school with just left if they got pregnant. Most of them got married. That was 1972.

Now, thankfully, it’s so different.

The character in my book is going to get married, but it’s not going to turn out well for her. That’s part of the story line, poor girl.

Ironically, after years of trying not to get pregnant, when the time came to try for a baby, it just never happened. No IVF in those days. But, after meeting my second husband, I now have the children and grandchildren I eventually longed for.

I know there’s lots I can glean from the internet about pregnancy in the 1970s, but would really be interested to know how it actually was.

Would anyone be prepared to share their experience?

rockgran Sun 17-Feb-19 19:05:46

I used the over the counter Predictor mirror test in 1979. However, the doctor said he wouldn't accept the result as he thought they were unreliable. (By the way - I was!grin)

mcem Sun 17-Feb-19 19:12:42

From 1973 until 1976 I had so many pregnancy tests that I lost count!
The sample bottles to Boots and time after time a negative result. Had home test kits been available it might have been a bit less stressful!
While notching up the negative tests and attending the infertility clinic, we started the adoption process.
Dd1 duly arrived followed by the second successful adoption 2 years later! All sorted!

Dd1 was about 8 when I was at last having regular cycles and was 10 when I produced what was referred to as the miracle!

Riverwalk Sun 17-Feb-19 19:38:59

I remember using an over the counter test in 1978- result took a couple of hours.

Granny23 Sun 17-Feb-19 19:57:33

DD1 in 1970, Miscarriage in 1971; DD2 in 1973. Urine sample to Doctor each time and phone a week later for result. First test came back negative, but after a month and still feeling sick and tired I had another which was positive. Both my babies were back to back and all my contractions were felt in my back and down the back of my legs. Both times the staff insisted I was not in Labour, had not dilated and were going to send me home. Then suddenly my waters broke, flooding the delivery room and they realised
that I was in advanced labour. With DD1 they went away to fetch Gas and Air machine and seized by one massive contraction, baby shot out, over the end of the delivery bed and bounced like a yo-yo, head down on her shiny bright yellow and black cord, which looked like an electric flex. I thought I was hallucinating. I was badly torn and got a row from the midwives for pushing before they had given me permission to do so.

Birth No. 2 was similar, except that I had experience and directed them to my back to monitor the contractions. They overdosed me on Gas and Air and pethidine, such that I was well out of it, then took the G & A away and with one mighty push DD2 burst out. I was torn from front to back passage and to add insult to injury, the registrar packed both passages with gauze to stem the bleeding, sewed me up tight like a virgin and could not then get the gauze back out.

I appreciate that no two births are the same, but found both of mine quite bizarre and nothing like I had been told to expect.

Jalima1108 Sun 17-Feb-19 20:10:35

What Katyk and Iam64 said - a missed period then a urine test at the GP surgery.

And - if you are setting this in 1976 - please note that it was an extremely hot summer, the temperature got up into the 90F, probably about 35C, and it was most uncomfortable being pregnant that year, or indeed, trying to keep a baby cool.

I had one baby in hospital and one in a maternity home in the 1970s and the maternity home was a blissful experience after the hospital.

EllanVannin Sun 17-Feb-19 20:28:15

Oh yes,BlueBelle, I forgot about the enema-----worse than the labour itself, it was awful as I thought the baby would be born down the pan.