Between Kate Middleton and Kim Kardashian, it’s been a major year for famous pregnancies. But those two women aside (for just one second), you can’t pass a newsstand these days without seeing pregnant A-listers posing for magazine spreads — better yet if they’re naked — and gushing about how much they love their fertile bodies. Pregnant women now appear in fashion shows (Miranda Kerr, Jourdan Dunn), on scripted and reality TV (Sex and the City, The Rachel Zoe Project), and in tabloid “bump watch” sections every week. We are officially a womb-obsessed society.
Of course, it wasn’t always like this: In earlier centuries, pregnant deities were carved from stone and worshipped, while real pregnant women were kept behind closed doors. Miscarriages and stillborns were common, which meant pregnancy was often nerve-racking, not joyful.
Our modern curiosity about baby bumps is two-pronged: At its best, it gives women a platform to discuss their reproductive choices and revel in their bodies’ natural processes. At its worst, it invades the privacy of those who would rather keep their uteruses to themselves. Hence why some public figures, like Carla Bruni and Gisele Bündchen, have refused to disclose any information about their pregnancies. Others use it to boost awareness of health-related topics: Brooke Shields wrote a book about her postpartum depression, while January Jones endorsed placenta pills after giving birth.
Now that Kate is nearing her delivery, have we reached the apex of frenzied celebrity-pregnancy coverage, or is this the new normal? Probably the latter, as popular demand for baby-bump news shows no sign of slowing down. If Snooki’s open letter to the duchess about motherhood and Josh Duhamel’s dramatic baby gender reveal on Live! With Kelly and Michael prove anything, it’s that pregnant celebrities continue to comprise a robust micro-economy. Click through our slideshow of the most famous, talked-about pregnancies throughout history, and see how times have changed.