Post birth traditions Ecuador, Germany and Spain

December 06, 2016

Post birth traditions Ecuador, Germany and Spain

Continuing with our focus on post birth rituals we bring you summary of traditions from Ecuador, Germany and Spain.

In most cultures the post-birth period is considered a sacred time for mothers and their babies. Across the world there are countless unique postpartum rituals that both celebrate birth and provide a safe space for mothers to recover and bond with their babies.  Deeply rooted in cultural or religious traditions, some of these practices have been around for as long as humans have birthed with some traditions still practiced today. And as such, they provide great insight into restorative post-natal practices that honor and support women in this beautiful yet challenging transitional period.

Ecuador: Restoring energy with Ecuadorian “Closing the Bones post-birth ritual

Starting off our journey in Latin America, the “Closing the Bones” ritual is an Ecuadorian oil massage of the abdomen, pelvis and hips area, which new mothers receive right after giving birth and up to 6 times during the 40 days postpartum period. This ancient ceremony, which originates in the indigenous culture of the Ecuadorian Andes, helps restoring the mother’s energy after opening herself physically and emotionally during birth. The oil massage specifically targets the abdomen, pelvis and hips area in order to support the body renew and heal itself, while it also aids flushing out toxins, balancing hormones and improving muscle tone.

Strict resting during “Wochenbett” in Germany

Moving on to northern hemispheres, in Germany women are prescribed a strict resting period, also called the “weekly bed” (in German “Wochenbett”), after giving birth. A time that allows them to rest, recuperate and adjust physically and psychologically to their new life. The “Wochenbett” can last up to 8 weeks after birth and is even mandatory for working moms, as they are not allowed to return to work during that time. The maternity protection law, “Mutterschutz” in German, was issued in 1968 to protect expecting mothers from being discriminated against when applying for a job. Of course, during “Mutterschutz” mothers are also paid their full salary.

Midwives play an essential role during pregnancy, birth and the postpartum period. In fact, in Germany, it is the midwife who is responsible to deliver the child, while doctors play a secondary role. They also accompany new parents during the resting period, being on call 24 hours a day and offering support with each and every aspect of post-natal care. From breastfeeding, to diaper rash, your midwife is there to help you settle into your new role as a mother, recover and learn how to care for your baby. Natural birth and post-natal care is highly encouraged in Germany. Suitably, midwives will recommend all-natural home remedies for typical postpartum ailments such as cabbage breast wrapping for clogged milk ducts.

 A new take on the traditional “cuarentena” in Spain

Similar to Germany’s “weekly bed”, the Spanish “cuarentena” or “puerperio” is a prescribed resting period that traditionally lasted 4 weeks after childbirth. In the past, according to catholic tradition, new mothers weren’t allowed to leave their houses, nor to perform any domestic chores. As a matter of fact, they weren’t even present at their babies’ christening, nor was the father - it was the duty of the godparents to baptize the child within the first week after birth.

 The “cuarentena” is still practiced, but primarily considered a restorative period for new moms to recover from giving birth and, contrary to religious belief, gladly is not perceived as a time of seclusion anymore. Just like Germany’s “weekly bed”, the cuarentena lasts between 4 to 8 weeks and is set to provide a safe and intimate space for mother and father to adjust to their new life as parents.

On a side note, families and friends customarily give the new mother serrano ham after giving birth. During pregnancy, Spanish doctors strictly prohibit eating uncooked meat and pork such as cured ham to prevent contracting toxoplasmosis. Which, of course, is a tragedy for Spanish people for whom serrano ham is a national treasure. Therefore, the arrival of a baby is commonly celebrated with a feast of serrano ham.

It's quite obvious that most cultures honor the period of postpatum to help a mother/family through the changes that are. I honestly believe with some help and support we can help mothers adapt to the changes with a strong support system be it just food services, cleaning around the house and other mundane chores leaving her to bond with baby and help her revive herself mentally and physically. 

Did you have any rituals post birth? Something you read or plan to have when you birth next time around? Share you story with us.

Love and Light MM xx



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