The world is beautiful: it’s a magical stage where a wide variety of traditions, cultures, and languages meet. In each country, people celebrate the birth of a new life. Simply because pregnancy, birth, and parenthood are some of the most wonderful stages in one’s life.
We often associate birth with hospitals, doctors and pills. But the truth is that many countries rely on faith, traditions and myths. Although sometimes the Western world finds some foreign customs unusual, we all should enjoy the multicultured diversity that our dynamic century offers us. From baby showers to eating the placenta, bringing a new life into the world is exciting, and most of the birthing rituals from around the world are wonderful.
However, we should know more about the different birthing practices around us as there are some traditions that are more than unusual and unacceptable when it comes to birth. Some weird rituals can be called illegal as they often put the life of the mother and the baby (or the babies) at risk. And let’s be honest, often, these traditions represent and mirror the way our society treats women, in other words, as unequal.
Let’s have a look at 15 birthing rituals from across the globe that should be illegal.
15 Niger: Don’t Touch Her
The African Republic of the Niger is a wonderful country that’s been marked by civil wars and poverty. Apart from its civil conflicts, there’s something else that people should know. Let’s talk about their strange birthing rituals that should be illegal.
As the majority of the country is Muslim, it’s believed that only the husband can touch the woman’s genitals. When it comes to birth, these traditions are still respected and even the midwife can’t touch the mom. During delivery, the midwife only gives herbs and drinks to the mom and says prayers for a safe delivery.
Unfortunately, as we know, many complications can occur during birth, so this practice of not touching the mom should be illegal. Simply because that can be life-threatening.
Massaging the perineum, holding the mom’s legs and inspecting the cervix are some of the things that are a must during labor.
14 Malaysia: Bloody Fears
Malaysia is another wonderful country, which unfortunately still has some strange beliefs about the new mom - rituals that should be confronted.
Blood usually scares people, especially men. Periods, other vaginal bleeding, or birth – our society becomes a little bit neurotic when it comes to physiology. Isn’t it strange? Nobody minds porn films but talking about tampons and pads makes everyone scared.
In Malaysia, people believe that the postpartum bleeding mom is dirty and can attract evil spirits. Therefore, she is not allowed to leave the house. That’s more than unacceptable. Simply because regular exercising is crucial for recovery. There’s a lot the new mom has to cope with, so the last thing she needs is someone to put restrictions on her.
In fact, it’s the same in Christianity. Actually, many countries find the bleeding woman evil.
13 Ghana: Close Your Legs
Talking about postnatal moms, in Ghana women are required to keep their legs closed after birth as that would reduce the air to their genitals and body.
In fact, the reason why women there are required to do so is to reduce their bleeding and also to help the mom with her post-baby belly. Okay, how’s that illegal one might ask! Well, basing healing and medicine on traditions and faith is dangerous as it puts people’s lives at risk. There’s no scientific fact that support that belief.
Many infections after labor can become more dangerous than the complications and the risks that come with giving birth. Birthing rituals, home birth and even crazy trends are great, but medicine should be on a pedestal.
Still, don’t forget to keep your legs open during labor.
12 Uganda: Thirsty Much?
Water is one of the miracles in our world. Life is based on water. Therefore, this divine liquid is crucial for all of us.
Mothers also need to be hydrated as it’s been proven that mom's lifestyle affects the baby in the womb. It’s not about popular obsession with bi-products, which are often produced in farms. After all, how can you have perfectly shaped, huge and bright red apple?
That’s why we should mention one practice in Uganda that's illegal. Mothers are not allowed to drink water while standing because that might put her baby at risk from being born with squinted eyes.
This practice is not illegal, true, but raises questions why moms are still restricted or women in labor are not allowed to eat certain foods. Medical assistance is what's needed.
11 India: Dip Your Toe
Moving away from Africa to Asia, there’s a curious birthing ritual in India. It’s all about that vital liquid – our clean and fresh water.
In a country that’s known for its polluted rivers and water, it’s believed that if the woman is not progressing, she has to drink a glass of water in which her mother-in-law has dipped her toe, her big toe to be more specific. There are no accusations that the woman’s feet might be dirty and lead to poisoning. Not at all! But this practice should be illegal in a sense that it should be replaced by appropriate actions. If a woman is not progressing, there are medications, c-sections, and professional help that should be brought in instead.
Water during birth is needed, but the fact is that it won’t help if any problems arise. Drink it up!
10 Angola: Keep Inside
Controversial birthing traditions affect not only the mom but her baby. In Angola, people believe that the newborn shouldn’t be taken outside for the first seven days. Just because that might attract some bad luck.
True or not, we don’t know because there are many things science cannot explain. There’s energy out there, there might be spirits, ghosts, and parallel universes.
But this Angolan ritual shouldn’t be applied so strictly. What if something happens to the baby during birth or soon after that? Medical assistance is needed.
It’s true that the touch of the mom can heal, especially when it comes to preemies (a fact that the Kangaroo Care Day, celebrated on May 15th, reminds us of). But medical interventions that can save lives are something we shouldn’t ignore.
9 Peru: Fancy Some Salt?
Sodium chloride or salt is one of the ingredients we all add to our food. There's a Bulgarian legend about a princess who said that the love for her father was greater than her obsession with salt.
Sugar and salt and the cravings we can’t escape from, pregnant or not. Research suggests that we are born with such preferences because these vital ingredients were rare thousands of years ago and evolution just made us appreciate them more and more.
There’s a birthing ritual in Peru that involves the magical crystals of our beloved salt. People believe that if the placenta doesn’t come out, the woman should eat some salt. While that’s okay, it’s should be illegal to exclude medical interventions that might prevent bleeding, infections and surgical removal of the uterus.
8 Mexico: Embrace Life
In Mexico, a pregnant woman should embrace life. In other words, she should stay away from anything death-related. Even if a relative or a loved one dies, the mom is not allowed to go to the funeral... Which might be emotionally overwhelming and lead to guilt.
We can’t say it’s illegal, of course. But again in Mexico, there’s another practice that might be seen as unacceptable. As it’s believed that the woman’s genitals lose heat during birth and never return to their original position, midwives can place themselves between the woman’s legs to keep the heat in. While there’s no shame during birth and midwives have seen it all, sometimes people forget that the pregnant woman is a human and needs some respect. Therefore, invading her space can be uncomfortable for her, to say the least.
7 Laos: How Many More?
Laos or Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR) is a country that due to some economic problems leaves many women, especially in the remote areas, not only poor but unable to access proper sex education and medical care. In fact, data shows that Laos had the highest maternal mortality rates in 2005.
The fact that women there have short intervals between births and have a lot of kids makes things worse. The fertility rate was around 4 kids per woman in an interval of 36 months.
While it’s okay to have big families, each mom needs time to recover and decide when she wants another baby.
In addition, having a lot of children but not being able to provide is something unacceptable. Everyone deserves an equal start in life.
6 Netherlands: Does It Hurt?
Back to Europe and our Western bubble. Netherlands is one of the developed and beautiful countries where pregnant women face some dangerous practices.
Doctors are not needed, so to say, because many women rely solely on their midwives. On the other hand, midwives minimize all aspects of medicalized birth. Also, 30% of all births take place at home. Of course, pain relief medications are not allowed. Even if you are in the hospital, anesthetics or epidurals are a luxury. What’s more, you are required to leave the same day, a few hours after birth.
All that might sound too natural and sweet, but it can be called illegal. Simply because many complications can happen outside the hospital. Moms and babies are actually put at risk by not having an immediate access to medical assistance.
Last but not least, birth is painful with or without medications, so there’s no need to suffer more in the name of some idealistic cause.
5 Turkey: No More C-Sections
On the edge of Europe and Asia, Turkey is another country where birth rituals and practices are scary.
C-sections can save lives, true. However, c-sections are on the rise in Turkey: in fact, they account for 48% of all births. Thus, the government made elective c-sections punishable by law.
Why, if pregnancy and birth are a personal choice? They are illegal because many doctors influence the decision of the woman and suggest c-sections as a safer option… in their private hospitals that of course, cost a lot of money.
Many people worldwide are against c-sections. However, we should stop judging women. Everyone can do what they want with their bodies.
Let’s not forget that c-sections are preferred as some pregnant women fear the pain and the exhaustion of labor. Therefore, pain relief medications are a must. Worldwide!
4 Togo: Be Quiet!
Talking about pain and birth, we all know that giving birth is a loud process: screaming, shouting, swearing or crying, it’s like a concert hall of painful joy.
Often by releasing our emotions, we feel physically better. However, that’s not acceptable in Togo.
Women there are encouraged to stay silent during birth. For the logical reason that screaming would attract bad spirits.
That’s a strange birthing ritual that probably many librarians would approve. Although we should respect cultural differences, that practice doesn’t seem right because women should be able to feel free during birth.
Drinking water, walking around, having a loved one nearby, not feeling ashamed or guilty for their pain, are only some of the important aspects during labor. Pregnant women shouldn’t fear birth and the miracle called motherhood.
3 Comanche: Hot Pain?
The Comanche people are one of the indigenous groups that populated the land between New Mexico and Colorado. Now, the Comanche people are recognized as the Comanche Nation.
Pregnant women would squat during birth. Of course, that’s not illegal. Actually, I do like birth balls and personally, I found squatting helpful during labor. However, Comanche women would squat over hot stones. That’s because people believe that the pain from the heat would help them deal with the pain during labor and help their perineum.
We shouldn’t doubt the wisdom that many ancient tribes carry through time. But all practices that might hurt the mom and her baby should be illegal. Hot stones could burn the genitals of the woman causing irreparable damage. Apart from that, everyone should be free to create their own birth plan, on hot stones or a hospital bed.
2 Korea: My Mother-In-Law
We all know how important emotional support is. Fathers are often needed during labor because the connection that exists between the mom, the dad and the baby is miraculous.
However, in South Korea, mothers-in-law are more trusted and respected. Actually, when a Korean woman finds out she is pregnant, the first person to know the great news would be her mother-in-law (then her husband and own mother).
Actually, the dad-to-be is not allowed during birth. We can’t label that as illegal, but we should question why. Fathers should be involved in all these mysterious women’s stuff. By educating men to accept menstruation, birth, postpartum bellies, and pain, maybe the inequality that people face around the world will diminish.
Because men and women are two halves of one entity that should love each other.
1 Jamaica: Plan Your Placenta
Here, we’ll mention another curious birthing ritual. Not illegal but a good continuation of the topic of education.
Many rituals involve the powerful energy of this strange organ, the placenta. Recently, we can see a growing trend of eating your own placenta. Even the lovely actress January Jones, who played Betty Draper in the famous show Mad Men, gave it a try.
In Jamaica, the placenta and the umbilical cord are kept after birth and buried in the ground. Then, family and friends plant a tree that is used to teach the baby social and family responsibilities.
Because birth is a miracle and we all should respect our families. It’s not only the mother, though, fathers should also be involved in the upbringing, and traditions should be kept.
The legal ones, of course.
Sources: BellyBelly.com, DutchReview.com, HuffingtonPost.com, MidwiferyToday.com, Parents.com, UNfpa.org