Pregnancy, Birth, Post Partum in Different Cultures- Student Article

The following is a student blog post by Dawn Housos

Dawn Housos

Pregnancy, Birth, Post Partum in Different Cultures



The Mexican culture places higher than average importance on pregnancy and birth.


Pregnancy is thought of as very respectable. The expecting mom is encouraged to rest often, eat well, and take walks to keep fit. The Mexican family is very close and heavily involved with each other. Pregnant women are encouraged not to drink, smoke, or do drugs. It is also thought that pregnant women should not do and heavy or strenuous work. Pregnant women are often encouraged to quit their jobs so they may focus on having a healthier birth. They often do not seek prenatal care until later in the pregnancy. Mexican women are generally modest and prefer female caregivers. Mexican women tend to be attentive to their bodies. It is thought that the pregnant body will crave foods that it needs to grow a healthy baby, and that unsatisfied cravings may result in birth defects. It is often thought that drinking milk will make the babies larger, and that drinking chamomile tea will aid in having a healthy labor. Mexicans also believe in a number of superstitions such as:  observing a lunar eclipse will cause the developing baby to have a cleft lip/palate, or infant may resemble a particular fruit if the mom craves that fruit.


The birth is often attended by experienced older women to help the expecting mom through birth. It is common practice for the expecting mother’s mom to move in with the family weeks before the birth to help the expecting mother get her house ready for the new baby. Mexican women generally fear unnecessary and/or dangerous medical interventions, so they tend to labor at home. They generally go the hospital just in time for the delivery. Only female family members are present at the birth. A Cesarean Section is feared, and a natural vaginal delivery is preferred.


Traditionally, women have forty days of recuperation after delivery while the family makes home remedies to cleanse the impurities of birth. It is believed that Post Partum Depression will not occur if the home remedies are taken. The moms are cared for by their female family members, but the new mom is expected to care for her own baby. After birth, the moms are not supposed to shower for several days or get out of bed for several hours. The moms usually eat very light, and most breastfeed their babies.




The Netherlands places a very high value on pregnancy, birth, and mothering.


Pregnancy is believed to be a natural physical process and not a medical procedure. Pregnant women are mostly cared for by midwives, and there are very few screening tests performed during pregnancy. It is common practice to begin prenatal care at 8-10 weeks gestation. The midwife will not do any blood tests or urine screening unless there is a medical need (family history or if the mom is over 35 years of age). The pregnant woman must register for her postnatal care (kraamzorg) before the baby is born. The Netherlands government requires pregnant women to stop working four weeks before the due date.


Most Netherland women may choose to birth at home, but birthing at a hospital with a midwife is an option. All uncomplicated births are attended by a midwife. An obstetrician will only be involved if there is trouble with the birth. The Netherlands has a low cesarean section rate, as well as a decrease rate of interventions. If a mom births in a hospital, her stay may last four hours to ten days. She will not be discharged until she feels confident that she is ready. Only 10% of the moms receive any pain medicine. Pain medication is not routinely offered. Physicians and midwives alike prefer not to interfere with the normal birthing process. They tend to let it happen naturally. Pain medication is not available at home births, nor is it available to birthing moms at hospitals outside normal business hours.


All moms get kraamzorg (postnatal care at home). Depending on the birth, it may be a nurse (kraamverzorgende). The nurse may help with home delivery. The nurse may help the mom learn to care for herself and her new baby physically and emotionally. The nurse also works as a liaison between the mom and baby, and their doctors. The postpartum nurse will also clean bath rooms, toilets, mother’s room, and the baby’s room. This is to ensure that the house is hygienic. They also help with light household chores so the mom can rest and recover. The postpartum nurse will meet with the mom during the eighth month of the pregnancy to discuss specific needs, and adjust the needs as necessary after the birth. Most moms get 49 hours of postpartum care. Babies born in the Netherlands do not automatically get citizenship if neither one of the parents are citizens. The midwife or Obstetrician will check the mom and baby one week after birth and again after six weeks after birth. Only seven vaccinations are common and they are paid for by the government. All moms are entitled to ten weeks of paid maternity leave.



United States

In the US the idea of pregnancy and birth is generally thought of as respectable as long as it does not inconvenience anyone. A woman who chooses to quit work in order to stay home to raise her children is often considered to have settled for less than her true potential.


Pregnancy is thought of as a medical procedure that must be managed to prevent a catastrophe. Children and pregnancy are viewed as a hardship and an inconvenience. Moms usually start prenatal care early with an OB. In 2009, 8.1% of all deliveries and 12.1% of all vaginal births were delivered by midwives. Midwives and home births are thought of as dangerous and women who choose this method are foolish. Home births are generally considered not as safe as a hospital birth with an OB. The US spends more on maternity care than any other country in the world. The US also has a very high maternal mortality rate, 13.3 per 10,000, Every year 1.7 million moms suffer an adverse health effect due to a complication of child birth. Nearly all birth complications are iatrogenic and are preventable with a more conservative evidence based approach to birth.


Most births in the US take place in a hospital with an OB managing the care. The current cesarean section rate in the US is 35%-40%. Most hospital births receive advanced pain treatments with 68%-98% receiving epidurals, and even more moms receive intravenous pain medication. In hospital births moms are NPO, have IVs, and are attached to continuous monitoring devices during labor and birth. Moms are usually required to deliver laying flat on their backs. Babies are cared for by parents and medical professionals for 24 hours after a vaginal birth and 72 hours for a cesarean section. Artificial milk is encouraged, and formula companies contribute large amounts of money and products to hospitals. Exclusive breast feeding rates at three months is 32% (2012).


After a short hospital stay, moms and babies are sent home where they attempt to adjust to motherhood, recover from birth, and keep house practically unaided. It was once common for the maternal grandmother to stay with the new mom for six weeks after birth. However, this practice is almost abandoned in today’s society. This is mostly due to women seeking careers outside the home, and it is difficult for women to take off work for six weeks to help their daughters during the postpartum period. Babies are seen by a pediatrician shortly after birth and every two months for checkups for the first year. Moms see their OB or Midwife at six weeks postpartum. Working mothers are expected to return to work at this time. There is no paid maternity leave for most mothers. Only 10% of moms return to work before four weeks. Postpartum Depression affects 9%-16% of all first-time moms, and  41% of moms who previously suffered with PPD.



BRENHOUSE, HILLARY (2013, AUG 15). “Why Are America’s Postpartum Practices So Rough on New Mothers?”. Retrieved November 1, 2013 from:

“Hispanic Mothers Share Their Cultural Beliefs and Practices”. Retrieved November 1, 2013 from

van Mulligen,  Amanda. (21/03/2009). “Maternity matters: What to expect in the Netherlands”. Retrieved November 1, 2013 from

(2011) “Mortality rate, infant (per 1,000 live births) – Country Ranking”. Index Mundi. Retrieved: November 1, 2013 from

2013. “Maternal Health in the US”. Amnesty International. Retrieved November 1, 2013 from:

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