Childbearing Beliefs, Traditions, and Practices in the Samoan Culture

This web page has been put together based on one-on-one interviews with Samoan women.
The contents contained within this page should not be used for self-care or treatments of any type.
It is strictly for informational purposes only.
If you are pregnant, please seek medical attention from a professional health care provider.

The pregnancy:

*Women find out they are pregnant at present via pregnancy tests, either over the counter or at a doctor's office.
*Many times, a woman's mother is present with her at the time of pregnancy testing.
*Many times a pregnancy may not be "planned", although no birth control will have been taken to prevent pregnancy.
*A pregnant woman's mother is an essential component of a woman's pregnancy and child-rearing experience.
*A pregnant woman's mother is responsible for teaching the pregnant woman about taboos, traditions, and customs.
*Pregnant women eat a lot of fish, poi, and coconut milk to produce big, healthy babies.

Some taboos, traditions, and customs of the pregnant woman are:

*A pregnant woman should not wear anything that wraps around her (i.e.; necklaces, lavalavas, rings, or belts) because these can cause the umbilical cord to wrap around the baby's neck and choke baby.
*Chairs need to be dusted off before a pregnant woman can sit down, this will scare away any spirits that could harm her baby.
*A pregnant woman cannot drink a canned beverage without first pouring some out. If she drinks from the can without pouring any out, baby will have a lot of mucus.
*Pregnant woman can never walk alone. It is believed that baby is facing mother's back and that because of this, spirits can come from behind to harm baby. Someone must always walk behind her to prevent this.
*Her mother will rub coconut oil on the pregnant woman's belly to help keep the baby healthy.
*If a pregnant woman is ugly, she will have a girl (The girl will steal all of the mother's beauty).
*If a pregnant woman is beautiful, she will have a boy.

The Labor and Delivery:

*Pregnant woman labors and delivers with only female elders present.
*If a pregnant woman wants medication for pain and her elder says "no," the pregnant woman will go without the pain medication.
*Midwives attend home births. Doctors will come to the home after the birth of the baby to check on mom and baby (More hospital deliveries are occurring at the Lyndon Bird Johnson Medical Center in American Samoa, with and without the use of midwives.).
*A laboring woman is not allowed to cry out in pain. If she mistakenly does so, she will be reminded by the female elders, with a slap across the face.

After Delivery:

*The bigger the baby, the healthier the baby is.
*Breastfeeding is very important and provides all of the needed nutrients to the baby.
*The new mother continues to eat a lot of fish, poi, and coconut milk.
*Female elders continue to care for the baby and new mother.
*The baby's maternal grandmother chooses a name for the baby, usually named to memorialize an elder. The elder that the child is named after can be either dead or alive at the time of naming and is usually of the same gender as the child.
*As the child ages, it becomes the resposibility of the entire village to raise and rear that child.

The Placenta:

*The placenta may be burned outside of the woman's home. This is believed to keep the baby/child close to home or if the child leaves as an adult, it means that he/she will always return.
*The placenta may be buried under a newly planted fruit tree, to provide nutrition for the tree that will in turn provide years of nutrition for the baby/child.
*It must be buried or burned completely, to prevent it being found by evil spirits that may want to harm the baby.

Baby Grows Up With:

*Biological parents if possible.
*If the biological parents are unable to raise the baby, the baby is placed with extended family members that are unable to have their own child.  They will raise the baby as their own.
*Extended family members will also raise the baby if the baby's mother is too ill to care for the baby. The baby will be raised as if she/he is the extended family's own child.
*If the children are raised by extended family members, as their own, the children are not told that they are not the birth children of the family raising them.  It is never mentioned again.

Links to all things Samoan:


These pages were created by students in the Associate Degree in Nursing Program at Hawai'i Community College. We appreciate your feedback! Please e-mail us your comments.

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Updated October 7, 2005