Rituals for Honoring Pregnancy in different Cultures

Pregnancy is celebrated in many parts of the world. In African cultures, because of many superstitious beliefs, many families will perform different rituals to safeguard the pregnancy. Pregnancy is acknowledged but not celebrated. It is believed that witches and evil spirits are capable of stealing the pregnancy or interfering with it. So the pregnant woman is not allowed to mix with the known witches in the neighborhood or allow strangers to rub her stomach. Furthermore, the woman is not allowed to attend some social functions, or perform some social tasks. For instance the woman may not be allowed to go to some funerals or involve with any morbid social issues.

Unlike the western countries, there are no baby showers. The pregnant woman will not accept any gifts, or celebrate the infant until the birth of the infant. It is believed that to accept gifts and to celebrate the infant before the birth will incur the angers of the gods and the ancestors. As a result, the child will either be born dead or deformed.

In African countries, pregnancy can be a wonderful experience depending on the status of the mother-to-be. The whole family is included in the pregnancy period. The best outcome of the pregnancy is the goal of every family member. Pregnancy is a time of joy and pampering for the married women. It is a time of rest for the mother-to-be, and anticipation and preparation for the new addition to the family. As for the unmarried woman, it could be nightmare.

In African culture, pregnancy is not only seen as procreation of future generations, but also a sign of reincarnation of ancestors. Africans believe that ancestors return to their loved ones through the birth of new infants. It is also seen as a way that men and women prove their masculinity and femininity. Childless couples are seen as selfish. In some cases, they are ridiculed and insulted by their peers and families.

During the pregnancy, the best foods are reserved for the woman. She is encouraged to rest as often as possible. It is believed that the woman needs to eat for two. The woman is usually assisted with housework and day to day activities by her mother, mother in law or family members. The pregnant woman will receive special attention from the husband especially if it is a polygamous marriage. The husband will ensure that all her wants and needs are met first before the other wives. Additionally, strangers tend to do favors for the pregnant woman. It is believed that the woman’s strength is like an old person’s, and that helping the pregnant woman will bring blessings – hence the assistance with anything strenuous or otherwise.

As for the non-married pregnant woman, life can be unbearable. These pregnancies are not celebrated. There is a repulsive stigma attached to unmarried pregnancies. Since, pregnancy before marriage is considered a taboo; these women are taunted not only by strangers, but by their own families and friends. Sometimes, to avoid the stigma associated with these pregnancies, the families may disown the pregnant woman.

The products of these pregnancies are considered bastards. The unmarried woman is seen as a prostitute and a loose’ woman. The lucky ones are either forced to marry the father of the fetus ( if known); get married into a polygamous marriage; forced to marry very old men; or are sent away to distant relatives for the duration of the pregnancy. The babies are either raised by the grandparents or by other relatives. Most women will illegally abort the pregnancy (abortion is illegal in some African countries). Some of these abortions end with disastrous effects such as infections and even deaths.

With the infiltration and adoption of western cultures, some of these beliefs are no longer widely practiced or hold true today. Most families will support their unmarried relatives. What’s more, Africans are now beginning to celebrate their pregnancies before the birth of their babies by having baby showers.