When it comes to pregnancy and giving birth, knowing what you want and what your body and baby needs is an extremely personal matter. While you may know pretty much exactly what to expect during pregnancy in America, understanding how other cultures worldwide handle pregnancy can be helpful as well. These nine foreign pregnancy "rules" Americans should get behind can help ease your mind when it comes to deciding what is best for you during pregnancy.
When you're pregnant, suddenly everyone around you is a critic spewing unwarranted advice like baby spit-up. Your well-meaning BFF, aunt Sue, or the neighbor lady next door become fountains of information overflowing with dos and don'ts for your pregnancy. Being armed with information about how women worldwide handle pregnancy can be helpful. For example, if you need to take it easy during your pregnancy because of crippling morning sickness (or frankly, just because you want to), it might be constructive to cite to any judgey-judgers nearby that in China, pregnant women are instructed to move as little as possible for the sake of their health and their baby's safety.
Read on to see what other foreign pregnancy guidelines might be helpful to adopt here in America.
1. China — Move As Little As Possible During Pregnancy
As Mattie Johnstone Bekink reported for Mind Body Green about spending the part of her first pregnancy in Shanghai, pregnant women in China are considered delicate and encouraged to move as little as possible. Obviously, this might feel almost impossible for women with other children, jobs, or even just someone who enjoys being active, but having the permission to move as little as possible during pregnancy sounds like an absolute dream. Enlisting plenty of help throughout pregnancy from family and friends could make this lofty goal a bit more of a reality here in the states.
2. Netherlands — Not Being Weighed During Pregnancy
Taking a cue from the Netherlands, where Expt.Nl reported mothers are typically not weighed during pregnancy when they are generally only monitored by a midwife unless complications arise, women in the U.S. could benefit from not experiencing the stress of seeing what their exact weight gain is at every single appointment.
While I can understand the need to monitor certain aspects of a mother's health during pregnancy, it was daunting and heartbreaking to watch the scale creep (or honestly, jump) up during both of my pregnancies. When starting at a healthy weight, as long as no other problems are suspected, having the added pressure of keeping a watchful eye on how much or how little weight is being gained during pregnancy can be downright stressful.
3. Germany — Mutterpass
When I was pregnant with my youngest, I had to make a visit to the emergency room when I experienced an optical migraine. Although I was seen at the same hospital where my OB-GYN practiced, I still had to wait quite a while for the ER doctors to get in touch with her to get up to speed on my pregnancy before they could really do much of anything for me. If I had been in Germany, this would not have been an issue at all.
According to Huffington Post, German mothers are given what is called a Mutterpass at their first prenatal appointment. This booklet contains anything any healthcare provider could want to know about the pregnancy and is updated by each doctor the mother visits while she is pregnant.
4. Brazil — Skipping The Line
Parents reported that in Brazil, pregnant women are treated with so much respect that they are given the courtesy of skipping to the front of the line in public places. Blogger Alex Daintry at The Travelling Chopsticks wrote that when living in Brazil while pregnant, she was treated like a "goddess" and was amazed at how much priority access was given to pregnant women in Brazil in supermarket and airport lines. Can you imagine if that were the norm in America? I sure could have used that sort of treatment when my swollen ankles were in full effect.
5. Netherlands — Prenatal Yoga For Pain Management
Expatia reported that a focus on prenatal yoga is central to the Netherland's expectations of a pregnant woman. Because the Dutch do not consider pregnancy a medical condition, they tend to encourage expectant mothers to engage in natural methods of pain management throughout pregnancy and birth, with prenatal yoga being a top recommendation. Prenatal yoga classes that teach relaxation and breathing techniques can help pregnant women learn useful skills that can make labor and delivery more bearable.
6. Nigeria — Postpartum Bathing
The Nigerian term Omugwo refers to postpartum care in general, and stipulates that a close female relative — typically the baby's grandmother or even an aunt — help soothe the new mom with a sitz bath or a hot towel belly massage post-birth, according to a report by The Guardian. This same female caretaker is also responsible for giving the baby their first bath.
While I can understand why some Americans may feel reserved about having their mother, sister, mother-in-law, or sister-in-law help them bathe or give a belly massage, I feel like it would be an amazing relief to have someone help me with this process immediately after birth when literally everything feels so difficult.
7. Finland — Gifts From The Government
You know how when you have a hospital birth, you tend to get to bring home extra diapers, pacifiers, and a few other odds and ends that your baby might need? Well, in Finland, all pregnant moms receive a gift package from the state filled with baby necessities like clothing, diapers, bibs, bedding, and a first aid kit, according to The Bump. The gifts come packaged in a cardboard box that can double as a place for baby to sleep after birth. The Bump also reported that moms can opt for a cash grant in lieu of the starter kit package, but most go with the gift box as it is the more valuable option.
8. China — "Sitting The Month"
In China, the practice of Zuo Yuezi, or "sitting the month" is required of new moms following birth. After nine long months of pregnancy, new moms are provided with a Pui Yuet, or nanny companion to help care for their baby and themselves, preparing traditional meals and ensuring that the mom can get plenty of rest. The practice is rooted in Chinese medicine and dates back to the Han Dynasty, according to Motherly. While some of the rules during the month following birth in China may not fly with U.S. moms (i.e. I definitely would want to shower at some point), the idea that spending an entire month devoting your time to just rest, relaxation, and bonding with your baby sounds heavenly.
9. Brazil — Gift Giving
When you give birth, visitors who come to the hospital or to your home often bring plenty of goodies for your newborn. Anything from clothes to books or even diapers is customary in America. How amazing would it be if instead, they brought gifts for you — the woman who just birthed an entire baby from her body. According to Huffington Post, in Brazil, it is expected for visitors to bring a gift for the mother after giving birth, and the mother will often give a small gift to the visitors in return. Flowers are one option for the mother, and trinkets such as a magnet or even candies can be collected by the mother pre-birth to give to visitors as a thank you in return.