Maternity photoshoots are so common that it's almost considered strange if you opt
not to do one while you're pregnant. These photos are a wonderful way to remember such a special time in your life, and they really highlight the beauty of a pregnant belly. But this isn't a totally new trend. Vintage maternity photos from decades ago show that moms have always loved documenting the way their bodies look when carrying a child.
Maternity photos back in the day definitely look really different than they do today. In 2020, these photos typically involve a professional photographer, a hair and makeup appointment, a few outfit changes, plenty of props, and some sort of gorgeous setting — like a field of flowers or a beach at sunset. (Or a giant velvet couch in the woods? I don't know.) The maternity photos of the past were decidedly more low-key. From what I've seen, most of them were taken at home, and it doesn't seem like hair or makeup or wardrobe was a huge concern. Instead of a full-on photoshoot, many of these look like they just decided to snap a few pictures one afternoon.
Still, there are some similarities to note: the way the women in any decade cradle their bellies and the little lives inside of them lovingly, and the inclusion of partners in some of the pictures. Take a look at what maternity photos used to look like:
1 Before Birth Leonard McCombe/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
This photo, which is likely from the 1960s, looks like it may have been taken while the woman was sitting on a hospital bed waiting to give birth. It's impossible to know for sure, but it would explain the nervous look on her face.
2 In A Crowd George Rodger/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
This beautiful shot shows a woman protecting her belly while standing in a crowd. And, from the look of it, she's definitely in her third trimester!
3 Doctor Exam Science & Society Picture Library/SSPL/Getty Images
This photo, which is from the 1940s, according to Getty, shows a pregnant woman getting checked out by a doctor. It's a really nice look at the more clinical side of pregnancy.
4 Getting Ready For Baby Europa Press Archive/Europa Press/Getty Images
A series of photos of this pregnant woman from the 1960s shows her surrounded by what looks like baby shower gifts: little clothes and baby accessories that she's putting away or folding on her belly.
5 At The Beach Mirrorpix/Mirrorpix/Getty Images
This was another series of photos from the 1960s featuring a man and woman sitting on a beach. In each one the woman is holding up tiny, adorable baby clothes.
6 In The Doorway Mirrorpix/Mirrorpix/Getty Images
This photo of a pregnant woman standing in front of a doorway is a style that is actually still pretty popular today. It really puts an emphasis on her belly!
7 Cradling Her Belly ullstein bild Dtl./ullstein bild/Getty Images
Here's some proof that this popular pregnant woman pose has stood the test of time. This almost looks like it could have been taken today.
8 Natural Lighting ullstein bild Dtl./ullstein bild/Getty Images
This is another maternity photo from the '60s that looks like it could have been taken today, from the pose to the sheer dress. Personally, it's one of my favorite kinds of maternity photos.
9 New Sibling Cincinnati Museum Center/Archive Photos/Getty Images
This cute photo of a really pregnant mama — with who we can assume are her two older children — is really sweet and casual. It shows one moment before their family will change forever.
10 A Huge Baby Carriage Mondadori Portfolio/Mondadori Portfolio/Getty Images
This photo from the '60s is actually kind of hilarious, especially when you think about a baby being pushed around in something this big. And check out her retro dress and shoes! Pretty impressive.
11 Strike A Pose Eileen Polk/Premium Archive/Getty Images
This black-and-white photo from the '70s is much more casual looking than something from a maternity shoot, but that's part of what makes it so great.
12 A Quiet Moment H. Armstrong Roberts/ClassicStock/Archive Photos/Getty Images
At some point in time, pregnant women started bringing little props into their maternity photos. In this one, a pregnant woman holds a flower that matches her dress.
13 Knitting For Baby H. Armstrong Roberts/ClassicStock/Archive Photos/Getty Images
It's not often that you see pregnant women today knitting a blanket for their babies, which is one of the reasons this photo has such a retro feel to it.
14 A Huge Smile Mirrorpix/Mirrorpix/Getty Images
Many maternity photos are a bit more serious, so what I love about this one is that the woman has a huge smile on her face.
15 Mother & Son ullstein bild/ullstein bild/Getty Images
It's such a special idea to bring your child into your maternity photos. This one from the 1970s shows a mom with her belly and her son.
16 The Happy Couple Peter Bischoff/PB Archive/Getty Images
Maternity photos are always cute when they involve your partner, and this photo from the '70s is a perfect example of that. Take a look at her retro dress and hairstyle, too.
17 Garden Shot Peter Bischoff/PB Archive/Getty Images
It looks like maternity photos started becoming a little more posed and stylized during the 1970s, especially if you use this one as an example.
18 Mother & Children Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Vintage photos weren't edited beyond anything you could do in a dark room, but the fuzzy aspect of this one almost makes it look like a filtered Instagram post.
19 Happy & Relaxed Lee Ergulec/Stone/Getty Images
This casual photo of a pregnant woman relaxing on a bench is probably from the 1950s. It doesn't look very posed, which only adds to its beauty.
20 New Family ullstein bild Dtl./ullstein bild/Getty Images
This old maternity photo features mom, dad kissing her stomach, and a baby bassinet.
21 Soft Lighting ClassicStock/Archive Photos/Getty Images
This is another vintage maternity photo that looks like it was filtered just for Instagram. Between the lighting and the softness, it's really pretty to look at.