Friday, November 20, 2009

Cultural Beliefs about Pregnancy and Birth

Different cultures have varying beliefs about pregnancy, childbirth and women as mothers. I think the differences are fascinating, and I think what I'd love to do is compile all the cultural traditions together, like a Birth and Culture book for Doulas/Midwives/OBs/Birth Workers in general. Here is a smattering of a few interesting cultural pregnancy and birth traditions that I've been perusing online:

During Pregnancy -  
  • Not looking at bears, monkeys, and camels,
  • Not eating fish, rabbit, trotters or sheep’s’ heads, and not chewing gum,
  • Not attend funerals or looking at the deceased,
  • Not secretly taking and eating anything.  
  • Looking at the moon,
  • Looking at beautiful people,
  • Smelling roses,
  • Eating quinces, apples, green plums and grapes. 
During Birth -
  • Unfastening the woman’s hair,
  • Opening locked doors, chests and windows,
  • Feeding birds,
  • A woman who had earlier had an easy labor would rub the back of the pregnant woman,
  • Shooting in the air,
  • Putting the woman on someone’s back and shaking her,
  • Making the woman jump down from a high place,
  • Making the woman lie down on a piece of cloth and rocking her. 

During Pregnancy -
  • A diet of fish, tofu, soup, and fresh vegetables  
  • positive thinking, images, and music
During Birth -
  • Foods rich in protein and carbohydrates such as mochi and eggs 
  • Very little noise is to be made

During Pregnancy:
  • Working with glue or other adhesives may cause birthing complications and hammering nails is thought to cause deformity in the fetus
  • the use of foul language must be avoided as this may cause the baby to be cursed. So may torturing, striking or killing an animal
  • ‘sharp’ foods such as pineapple and some other fruits avoided as they may cause miscarriage. 
  • Eating squid and crab are discouraged: the former is believed to cause the uterus to ‘stick’ during delivery, the latter to result in a mischievous child 
After Birth -
  • Praise should never be given to or applied to a new-born Chinese baby as this may invite the attention of demons and ghosts: the baby, instead should be referred to with unfavourable terms and words! 
  • Mother is confined; she is not allowed to eat food considered ‘cold’ or have cold baths

 Orthodox Jewish:
 During Pregnancy -
  • Many women do not prepare for their babies or reveal the baby's name in advance for fear of tempting the angel of death
During Birth -
  • Women in labor are considered to be in mortal danger and is considered to be in this risk state up to 3 days after the baby is born
  • As soon as there is bloody discharge from the vagina the husband may not physically touch his wife until 7 days after all bleeding as stopped
  • the husband is not allowed to see the woman's genital area and will not watch the birth and he cannot touch the mother even once the baby is born, until she has ritually cleansed herself

During Pregnancy -
  • unsatisfied pregnancy cravings cause birth marks; 
  • milk is avoided because it causes large babies and difficult births;
  • drinking chamomile tea is thought to assure effective labor; 
  • exposure of pregnant women to an eclipse will cause their infants to have a cleft lip or palate
  • some women wear a red string around their abdomen to prevent a cleft lip or palate
Birth -
  • inactivity will result in loss of amniotic fluid, causing fetus to stick to the uterus
  • new mothers are discouraged from taking showers for several days

Many of these are "folk beliefs," as in not everyone of this culture may follow all these traditions and customs, but they're still fun to read about!

1 comment:

  1. Nice post. I would like to ask you about the bibliography used for the chinese section, if it is possible. Thanks!


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