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The 10 Most Iconographic Pregnancy Pictures

Images of the fetus taken in 1965 changed the way we think about pregnancy.

When someone mentions how far we’ve come since the frilly frocks of mid-century pregnancy, I always think of Lucille Ball in a big checked tent of a maternity dress–the network reluctantly allowed Ball to incorporate her pregnancy into her hit 50′s show but only if the word “pregnant” was never uttered on air. The “modern pregnancy,” on the other hand, is perhaps best captured by the often-imitated nude pregnant portrait of Demi Moore on the cover of Vanity Fair.

Lennart Nilsson’s eerie images of an fetus floating in the amniotic fluid, published in Life magazine in 1965, changed the way we think about pregnancy. Ironically, they were later used for pro-life activism even though they were taken of aborted embryos, not in utero as is often assumed. The image of an alien tearing its way out of Sigourney Weaver’s taut stomach in the 1979 film Alien or Mia Farrow’s haunted expression in Rosemary’s Baby, though horrifying, forever embody the a primal fear of gestation. Most recently the image of the “pregnant man” tweaked our sensibilities– here was an impressive gender-bending of such an essentially female experience.

I’ve always been interested in images; I studied and curated art before I became involved with pregnancy and birth education. And often when I’m thinking about where we get our ideas about birth, images come to mind. Each of these images either capture a moment in history or represent a shift in our ideas about pregnancy and motherhood. I hope you enjoy.nggallery id=’113643′

  • The First Fake Pregnancy? 1 of 10
    The First Fake Pregnancy?
    In this famous Renaissance paining by Jan van Eyck, the "Arnolfini Wedding Portrait, 1434" the bride appears pregnant. Scholars, however, think this may have been a pregnancy added by the painter. It was considered good luck to be painted pregnant in a wedding portrait.
  • The First TV Pregnancy 2 of 10
    The First TV Pregnancy
    Lucille Ball appeared pregnant on her famous 1950s sitcom, "I Love Lucy" but the writers were prohibited from using the word pregnant. Instead they said, "expecting."
  • The First Glimpse Inside The Womb 3 of 10
    The First Glimpse Inside The Womb
    Lennart Nilsson's eerie images of an fetus floating in the amniotic fluid, first published in LIFE magazine in 1965, changed the way we think about pregnancy. Ironically, they were later used for pro-life activism even though they were taken of aborted embryos, not in utero as is often assumed.
  • Satan’s Spawn Goes Mainstream 4 of 10
    Satan's Spawn Goes Mainstream
    "Rosemary's Baby" came out around the same time as Time Magazine's famous cover story, "Is God Dead?" in 1966. The witty, haunting film, directed by Roman Polanski and starring Mia Farrow, kicked off a 1970s occult obsession in film--The Exorcist (1973), The Omen (1976)-- where themes revolved around Satanic possession, pregnancies or children.
  • Making Love (& Babies) Not War 5 of 10
    Making Love (& Babies) Not War
    This is famous picture of a pregnant hippie on "Desolation Row" at the Isle of Wight Pop Festival 1970. It's from the book, "Isle of Wight Festival 1970: Six Days That Rocked the World" by Bob Aylott
  • Fear Of The Unknown 6 of 10
    Fear Of The Unknown
    Alien came out in 1979, right at the cusp of the power woman decade, when women wore shoulder pads and generally aspired to more masculine ideals. Perhaps this scene is an allegory about how babies can really ruin your life. But it's come to represent a certain anxiety about (pro)creation.
  • Over 20 Million Copies Sold 7 of 10
    Over 20 Million Copies Sold
    What To Expect When You're Expecting first hit the shelves in 1984, since then--and despite criticisms that it's overly alarmist-- it's become a staple for every newly pregnant woman in America.
  • The Game-Changer 8 of 10
    The Game-Changer
    So long tent dresses and frilly collars, Demi Moore's bold and sexy Vanity Fair cover taken by the brilliant Annie Leibovitz changed the way we think of pregnancy. Suddenly, the bump could be sexy. The body could be bare. It was a revelation. This picture has spawned thousands of imitations from both professional and amateur photographers. It's become *the* nude, pregnancy pose.
  • The Birth Of The Bad Mother 9 of 10
    The Birth Of The Bad Mother
    In her incendiary 1995 Vanity Fair profile of Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love, Lynn Hirschberg claimed that Courtney used heroin while pregnant. This did not start a trend, thankfully. But Kurt and Courtney did draw our attention for years with their questionable parenting.
  • The Pregnant Man 10 of 10
    The Pregnant Man
    She's a woman who's a man, who is pregnant. And Oprah famously touched his bump. A big day for trans-gender parenting.

Create a pregnancy keepsake that honors you: 10 Ways to Document Your Growing Belly!

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