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Pregnancy Beliefs and Customs from Different Parts of the Globe

Pregnancy Beliefs and Customs from Different Parts of the Globe
on April, 30 2013

All mothers-to-be are excited about the arrival of their new bundle of joy. There is a need to ensure that they remain safe and healthy, to be able to deliver a healthy babyl. However, different cultures have different takes on how to have a good pregnancy to ensure that the delivery will go well and that the baby will be healthy. Here are some pregnancy beliefs and customs from different parts of the world.

Things to stay away from
Pregnancy is the time that many women believe they can eat just about anything. However, there are some things that remain taboo in certain parts of the world. The moms to be in Bali avoid eating octopus because they believe that eating some will result in a difficult delivery. In China, the pregnant mothers are told to avoid eating crab, because this is regarded as “cold food” and may induce a miscarriage. In the Philippines, pregnant mothers are told not to eat turnips, or their baby will become dark-skinned. Liberian women do not eat sheep meat because they believe that doing so will result in a breech birth.

Dishes to eat
Food cravings are normal when pregnant. For the mothers-to-be of Brazil, they go ahead and indulge in whatever they are craving for, lest their baby ends up looking like the food item that that didn’t eat when they were craving for it. Mothers-to-be in Mexico and Latin America believe that if they don’t eat what they are craving for, their baby will develop a birthmark in the shape of that particular food item. In Thailand, the mothers-to-be believe that being pregnant is a “hot condition” and so they eat and drink things that are hot, such as warm water, warm food and even take a bath in warm or hot water.

Staying indoors
It’s always good to get good rest and to avoid being too active when pregnant. In some parts of the world, this belief is taken to a different level. In India, the pregnant moms are told to stay indoors, especially during an eclipse or the baby may develop a cleft lip. In China, pregnant mothers avoid having sex and attending funerals. Those of Mayan descent, especially pregnant women in Guatemala, are told to stay indoors for the entire duration of their pregnancy.

Spoiling time
Many cultures give pregnant women extra care and attention. In Polynesia, pregnant women are given extra attention, told to rest and are often plied with the best food to ensure the delivery of a healthy baby. Chinese women are told to eat protein rich food and are often seated immediately and given special attention. However, the women of Ethiopia think of pregnancy as a natural part of life and often go about their daily business without any special treatment from other people.

Secrecy surrounding the pregnancy
There is the belief in the evil eye in many cultures, and pregnant women are particularly vulnerable so they must exercise special precautions. In Panama, women will often not reveal how far along in the pregnancy they are, especially when talking to someone who they feel may be holding a grudge or may be feeling envious of their pregnancy. Doing so may result in the birth of an ugly baby or even complications during delivery. In Cuba, a pregnant mother will not allow other people to touch her belly. Indian women on the other hand ward off evil spirits by burning chilies as well as camphor. In Israel, parents will not reveal nor say the name of the baby until it is born to ensure that evil spirits stay away.

Is it a boy or a girl?
Many cultures have their own version of determining a baby’s gender without the use of an ultrasound. In Switzerland, they believe that if the woman becomes lovelier, then she will have a baby girl, while she may find her beauty diminishing if she is having a boy. On the other hand, it is actually against the law in India to reveal a baby’s gender before delivery. This is because many Indians prefer to have a son. In the Orkney Islands, it is believed that seeing a rainbow is a sign that the baby will be a boy.

Being mindful of the disposition
Chinese mothers believe that the disposition of the mother affects the future disposition of the child. This is why pregnant women are told to avoid gossiping and must endeavor to be pleasant and happy at all times. However, laughing out loud isn’t considered good form.

No baby shower?
Jewish tradition doesn’t typically allow for baby showers and gifts to an expecting couple. In Israel, they believe that giving gifts to an unborn child will help attract evil spirits. Indians also believe that it is bad luck to give baby clothes to an expecting couple. Baby showers are also unheard of in many parts of Africa. In China, it is the mother of the mother who will provide the baby’s layette since they regard gift giving before delivery to be bad luck. To hasten the delivery, Chinese mothers-to-be will receive a package of clothing from their own mothers called tsue shen.

No doctor deliveries
In many parts of the world, a midwife assists in the birth process instead of an obstetrician. In Netherlands, a third of the babies born in the country are delivered at home.

Don’t do list
Bolivian mothers can’t knit (even a pair of booties or mittens) because they believe that the umbilical cord will wrap itself around the baby’s neck. The Inuit women avoid blowing balloons for fear of rupturing a membrane. Mexican mothers-to-be avoid taking hot and cold baths. A cold bath is believed to make deliveries more difficult because it would make the pelvis more rigid, while a hot bath may lead to circulatory issues. African mothers-to-be avoid raising their arms and holding it over their heads in the belief that they will strangle their baby if they do so. Japanese mothers-to-be avoid looking directly into a fire lest their baby is born with a birthmark. To avoid having a hairy baby, Portuguese women cannot hold or cuddle their furry pets.

Bernadine Racoma

Bernadine is a writer, researcher, professional and multi-awarded blogger and new media consultant. She brings with her a rich set of experience in the corporate world, as well as in the field of research and writing. Having taken early retirement after working as an international civil servant and traveling the world for 22 years, she has aggressively pursued her main interest in writing and research. You can also find Bernadine Racoma at .

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