Pregnancy, no matter which country a mom is from, is a beautiful part of life. Around the world, there are so many customs and traditions that make it a sacred and very special chapter in the lives of many women, and in this day and age, moms everywhere are lucky to be able to share in that joy through photography. People don't truly realize what a wide melting pot the world is until seeing it through photos, but at the same time, there's something so familiar and comforting about seeing women halfway around the world go through the same thing. There's a certain glow and exuberance that shines through every woman's smile and a warmth that emanates from every couple during pregnancy that's just unparalleled.
We've searched far and wide for pictures from various countries around the world who have their own traditions when it comes to childbirth. Some readers might recognize them from their own family, while others will be new and intriguing. The process is much the same, but the journey every woman takes to get there is vastly different -- That's also what makes it so amazing. These photos capture the very essence of what it's like to be pregnant but also capture the act of being a mom itself.
You'll notice that childbirth around the world is relatively similar, but what distinguishes a certain country's childbirth practice are their traditions. In Japan, there's a very strong belief that your spiritual well-being affects your child as well. In addition to working hard on limiting stress as well as physical activity, Japanese women are encouraged to relieve herself of all potential stressors and focus on positive vibes, a practice referred to as "shinkyo". Eating traditional Japanese foods is also something many women will follow since it's believed that one's origin should be part of their pregnancy. There are no seafood warnings here!
Dutch childbirth customs are nearly 100% natural, as they firmly believe that pregnancy is just that -- A natural part of life and not something that should be considered "medical". This means that home births are very common and as such, a midwife is also part of childbirth. According to expatica.com, the Netherlands holds the highest record for home births at 30%. Another interesting thing about pregnancy in the Netherlands is their treatment methods for pain, which are also natural and holistic. Midwives oftentimes suggest remedies such as yoga, since it teaches how to control your breath, focus, and relax through meditation.
Surprisingly, the rate of Cesarean childbirths in Brazil is very high, at a rate of roughly 40% out of all births. After all it is a woman's choice and up until that point, women are treated like royalty when pregnant in Brazil. It's not uncommon for women to be let ahead in lines, offered chairs to sit, etc., so that there's no need for them to wait or endure more physical stress than necessary. A child is a blessing in Brazil and after one is born, family and friends will often visit immediately with gifts, while the new parents offer a small token of thanks in return.
Similar to childbirth in the Netherlands, Germany also highly praises midwives and it's actually required that they need to be present at the time of birth -- Doctors, on the other hand, are optional. Women are required to remain at home for six to eight weeks after they've had their baby, but don't worry -- They're legally not allowed to be fired! Moms-to-be are also allowed to stop working up to six weeks before they give birth, allowing for personal time and bonding with her child and partner. It's also said that some areas of Germany require future parents to be familiar with a list of names that are acceptable for newborns, the reasoning being that children with unusual or rare names may be prone to bullying.
Many new moms will agree that there's nothing like the comfort of just knowing your partner is there to help you through pregnancy. Being a mom is a brave job and one that can be scary, but can also be a beautiful moment shared between two new parents. A baby is seen as a pure blessing in the Muslim culture, and newborns are celebrated with immense joy and happiness. Immediately after the baby has been born and cleansed, they'll be sung to with the AZAAN and Kalimah, both being calls to Muslim prayers, and then babies are given something sweet, usually by their grandparents -- A bit of honey on their tongue!
Nigerian childbirth is rooted very deeply in tradition and cultural customs. Family is often a huge part of a woman's transition from a pregnant woman to a mom, and as such play a huge role not just during pregnancy, but after it as well. "Omugwo" is the practice of giving a newborn his or her first bath and, surprisingly, this is not done by their mother. The first bath is usually done by the child's grandmother, aunt, or other close relative, and serves as a symbol of unity. By relieving the new mom of this first duty, she knows that she's not alone in raising her child and will receive support and help from the other women in her family.
Since Israel's traditions are rooted in the Hebrew faith, many of their traditions have to do with religious customs such as psalm readings and the strengthening of faith. Customs have evolved and changed over the years and many families welcome a child in different ways. One of the modern traditions in Israel is throwing a baby shower, very similar to what is done in the United States except that these are held post-birth after the baby has already been born. Since much of the population is also made up of Muslim families, Islamic traditions have found a way into childbirth as well depending on their own personal culture and religion.
This photo isn't too far from the truth for Canadians, who see snow much of the year, more so the further north you are -- Chances are, you'll be pregnant throughout one snow storm or another. The announcement of a couple's pregnancy is something that's done with pride and expressed hugely throughout Canadian families, and celebrating the birthday of the soon-to-be son or daughter is celebrated just as extravagantly. A baby shower is usually thrown and gifts are exchanged, and a child is usually given a name from within their own family. If there's one thing you can count on in Canada, it's a celebration.
12 United States
The United States has a variable mix of childbirth customs and isn't called the "melting pot" for no reason! Childbirth will vary from family to family depending on which country their family comes from and how strongly they believe in keeping up with traditions. Moms can give birth either in a hospital or at home, but doctors are usually always part of the process. One thing that remains a steady thread in American culture is the baby shower, it's something that Americans do well and what they use to truly celebrate the joy of bringing a new life into the world.
In the Chinese culture, women believe everything begins and ends with the thoughts that enter your head. From the start of pregnancy, a mom-to-be will do whatever she can to remain positive, whether it's through reading uplifting poetry, turning away from negativity such as gossip, give in to anger, or even look at things that might be displeasing or mood-altering. It's very strongly believed that any negative thoughts will go from a woman's brain, to her heart, and to her baby growing in utero. As a mom, you can't deny how endearing it is to know that you'd go to all of these lengths just to ensure that your baby is brought into this world as perfectly as possible.
Spain is full of surprises, stunning locations, and nightlife. Having a child is no different from the norm if you're a Spanish mom-to-be, and you know how exciting a baby shower can be. The planning process is left up to either a close friend, mother-in-law or sister and the only job you have as a new mom is to relax and not worry about a single thing. Celebrating pregnancy is a tradition in Spain, and so is celebrating the actual birth of a child during which the father will call everyone to tell them the amazing news. After mom and baby have both gone home and have settled in, she'll invite her family and friends over for a "merienda" while the father of her child goes out with the guys for celebratory drinks.
Jamaica is known for its superstitious customs and highly important rituals, and many of these surround childbirth as well. While some of the islands have moved away from tradition, many people still celebrate births the same way their families have for decades. One of these is the practive of burying the umbilical cord at the base of a tree, which signifies the unification between the newborn child and the land that they live on. It's a beautiful devotion to Jamaica and something a child and his or her parents will look at with pride throughout the years. It's often called a "naval" or "birth tree".
The land down under is known for many things, but as far as pregnancy goes, there aren't too many specific traditions devoted to having a child. Women may choose to give birth in what's referred to as a "family room" in the hospital as opposed to a regular room, and midwives are often more important than doctors since they're the ones who deliver the baby. Childbirth is celebrated with announcements in the paper as well as with family and friends, and above all, pregnancy is seen as something that should be as relaxed and calm as possible. Chill Aussie vibes only, please!
7 New Zealand
The Maori tribes are indigenous to New Zealand and are a culture full of life and beauty when it comes to keeping traditions and following age-old customs. Childbirth is no different, and the Maori people believe that the placenta is of that from which all life flows. It's called the "tapu" and is considered sacred and will often be kept to bury deep within the earth. Before a child is born, they'll perform what's referred to as "Karakia", or the prayer to bless the birthing space. It's believed that this will protect the new mom and her child, and bestow positivity and light.
Iceland is a country that's very progressive as far as parenting and raising families goes and their customs reflect as much. Raising children there is a laid-back tradition, one that really allows kids to explore and grow on their own. Being pregnant at all -- whether you're a single mom, married, or unwed -- is accepted in a nonjudgmental way and welcomed. Starting a family is something that's celebrated since the country itself is extremely safe and family-oriented. It might be too cold to even walk out the front door some days, but you know you'll be well-cared for as a new mom.
Similar to Japanese and Jamaican culture, Ireland has its own set of beliefs that stem from centuries-old traditions. For example, moms-to-be must never walk in graveyards and even worse, if a pregnant woman happens to trip and fall in a cemetery, she puts her baby at risk of having a club foot. Of course, this is a sillier tradition...On a more serious note, religion plays a large role in pregnancy and moms will often wear a medal representing their patron saint. The practice of being a godmother is also very important in Irish culture and is held in high regard.
Anyone who grew up in an Italian family knew that not only was your family huge, it was also very vocal. Funny enough, some hospitals in Italy will actually encourage moms who are giving birth to scream...Supposedly it helps to expand the cervix, but we're thinking it probably just feels better mid-push. Children are a big part of Italian culture and having them means you'll always have close family and friends nearby to support you and dually, your children will always have people to play with. Knowing so many people also means you'll probably have access to more food than you know what to do with, and I don't think anyone would complain about that.
Being pregnant in Russia often means that your entire family is involved, mainly your elders. Grandparents who have the most experience will often be the first to step up which can be frustrating, but also a great help in the way of raising a family. Russian families will often follow traditions that have been deeply rooted, and specific to their own families, for decades. While others may see it as strict, to a Russian mom it's completely normal for her older relatives to step in and help her through pregnancy while providing tips, advice, and the occasional superstition to avoid.
Rooted in its own superstitions surround pregnancy, Kenya has many rituals and traditions that warn moms-to-be against certain things that can harm the baby. One such belief is that talking about the child too much before they're born might result in your child's vulnerability to evil spirits. Everything is practiced out of love and hope for the baby, and the women of Kenya are treated with much care in their society throughout pregnancy. It's said that even strangers will go out of their way to make sure a mom-to-be is comfortable and not in any kind of strenuous situation.
The Hindu culture in India lends itself to many traditions for women who are pregnant. It's believed that women bearing a child should avoid eating too many hot foods to try and bring back some of their internal balance by tempering with cold foods, especially postpartum. Most babies are born in a mother's home with the help of a midwife who's referred to as a "Dai". New moms might be expected to move in with their families or in-laws and are not required to do anything but recover during the period known as "confinement", where a woman's family will help with the newborn until she's ready and strong enough to do so on her own.
References: greengaugedesigns.wordpress.com, cupofjo.com, rbth.com, thelocal.it, irishhistoryandgenealogy.wordpress.com, huffingtonpost.com, thenaturalparentmagazine.com, australiancultureandcustoms.com, real-jamaica-vacations.com, baby-shower.com, babble.com, thecanadaguide.com, parents.com, expatica.com