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Birthing Around the World

Aug 17, 2007
Since ancestral times, different cultures showed off different customs and beliefs around the miracle of life that birthing means. Birth has been also associated to fertility of the earth, and is the symbol of construction that rules the universe.

In Egypt, mortality of both babies and pregnant women were regarded so high that a plea for divine intervention became a rite on the day of childbirth. Hator, Aset and Tawaret were invoked to protect the life and discover the destiny of a newborn.

The Roman obstetrician Soranus (98-138 AD), wrote a book used until the 16th century describing childbirth care and common customs to observe before and after delivery. In the Middle Ages, European women were whipped to induce labor.

During the 18th century, things would change. In 1739, the first obstetric wards in Great Britain were opened, and shortly after the Scottish obstetrician, William Smellie would publish his Treatise on Theory and Practice of Midwifery 1752.

Midwives attended pregnant women and changed old customs, particularly during the next century when modern times began. In 1849, a doctor in Manchester reported three mothers and babies death after experimenting with five cases and because anesthesia was involved, a new superstitious belief was born.

The turn of the century brought more studies on pregnancy, but people kept some custom even until today. In Germany, pregnant women visit a midwife before or instead of consulting an obstetrician. Doctors are considered "optional" on the birthing day.

In several German cities, local government keeps a list of acceptable names for the newborns. Parents must choose a name from it, otherwise file a form compelling their reason asking for a non-listed name, a custom that is kept in an effort to protect children from potential ridicule after parents choose exotic or misspelled name.

In Brazil, pregnant women are meant to have a Caesarean childbirth, because it is a delivery custom, although the government is making efforts for encouraging other childbirth methods with the hope to reduce the public expense that Caesarean surgeries cause to the state.

In Turkey, there are no baby showers or special celebrations before or after the birthing day. The new mother and baby remain isolated for 20 days, after which they go from home to home visiting family and friends on an individual basis and celebrating with a special beverage.

Japan is a nation with a cultural custom that dictates 21-bed days for women after giving birth, as in Mexico old time traditions make a women stay 40 days in bed, custom which only survives in a few remote rural communities today.

The United States is multi-cultural nation where some of these customs are continued by immigrants, and others are resulting from the fusion of local and country home traditions.
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