This information is intended for informational purposes only; it is not meant to be prescriptive in nature.  Please see your doctor or health care provider if you are pregnant.

Doctor & pregnant patient  

 Hispanic Beliefs and Traditions        Regarding Pregnancy

This information is based upon interview responses of three Hispanic women.  One of them gave birth in 1982 at a hospital in El Salvador; another was born in The United States, but her parents were from Mexico; the third is originally from Mexico herself.  This information reflects the experiences of three individuals, and may not reflect the experiences of other women from these, or other Hispanic cultures.

Prenatal Beliefs

  • Determining the sex of the fetus is based on the mother's abdominal contour (pointy=male; rounded=female)
  • A mother must remain happy and content during pregnancy to assure the new baby will have joy and luck in their life
  • If you see something ugly while you are pregnant, the baby will be ugly as well
  • Raising your hands above your head could cause strangulation of the fetus by the umbilical cord (nuchal cord)
  • One must remain active while pregnant to guarantee a small baby and an easy delivery
  • It is better to keep having sex to maintain lubrication of the birth canal to guarantee an easy delivery; some in older generations believed just the opposite--no sex during pregnancy
  • Avoid lunar eclipses and moonlight during pregnancy or your baby may be deformed
  • Babies who are not exposed to music in utero are born deaf
  • Unsatisfied cravings (antojos) may lead to birth defects or injury at birth
  • Pregnancy is first suspected due to missed menstrual periods
  • Immediate family members (Husband, Mother, etc) are the first to be told the news
  • Prenatal care in El Salvador during the 1980's included vaccinations and prenatal vitamins
  • Pregnant women are expected to stay indoors and allow other family members to care for them
  • Eat cold foods to balance the hot condition of pregnancy; beans and sour limes were a frequent craving for one respondent
  • Wear red to ward off the evil eye during pregnancy
Labor and Delivery Beliefs
  • During labor, care and support are provided by mothers, mothers-in-law, or other women in the family
  • No analgesics provided during labor and delivery; health care personnel expect the woman to remain quiet during the birth process.
  • Women were not allowed to walk about or change positions, they were expected to remain in bed while in labor
  • Some Hispanics request to keep the placenta after birth; it would then be buried in the family's yard because it is considered to be a "friend of the baby."
  • Traditional births are handled by a midwife in the home.  All three respondents in our interviews gave birth in the hospital.  One had a preference for a female child, the other two stated no preference for gender
  • One respondent had no support person with her (nor did she desire one); the other two were accompanied by their respective significant others and mothers.

Post Partum Beliefs
  • Traditional postpartum recovery time is 40 days.  One respondent spent less than 12 hours in the hospital for her entire labor/delivery/birth process, followed by 3 days of rest.  Another stayed in the hospital for 24 hours after giving birth, then followed the traditional guideline of 40 days convalescence.
  • "The Sweeping" (a barrida), a protective ritual, may be performed by passing an egg over the entire body of the baby to remove and collect evil forces.  The egg is then broken into a glass of water.  "By doing this we are being sure to protect the baby against Mal de ojo (the evil eye)."  Others suggested the baby wear a red bracelet for protection from the evil eye.
  • Sunken Fontanel (Caida de Mollera) is caused by removing a baby from the breast too quickly, or because the infant has had a frightful experience (actually indicative of dehydration and a need for medical attention).
  • If the baby has hiccups, use saliva to place a red dot of paper on the childs forehead
  • One respondent's mother wanted to bind her baby's legs "like a mummy" for 40 days to prevent bow-leggedness.  The grandmother was not allowed to do this as the baby's mother realized that this would not work and was actually dangerous.
  • Traditionally, Hispanics have large families but our respondents felt that 2 children is ideal
  • Mothers, Mothers-in-law or grandmothers were used as primary resources for information regarding post partum issues; one respondent relied solely upon the advice of medical professionals and friends 
  • One respondent named all children for other family members or god-parents; one selected names with biblical significance, one sought to Americanize the child for ease of assimilation into American culture.

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Posted November 5, 2008