Jewish Pregnancy Customs and Perspectives
Pregnancy is a wonderfully exciting time as you anticipate the birth of your adorable baby. But as you quickly find out, it’s also a very high-impact time. Everything you eat and do affects your fetus. During this foundational time of a baby’s development, there is so much you can do to benefit your baby’s future.
There’s the physical health of the baby, which is affected by the foods you eat, the vitamins you take, and any toxins you are exposed to. As a starting point, giving your baby the highest-quality diet includes being careful to eat only kosher food, laying the groundwork for your baby to have a pure and holy life.
But Jewish pregnancy customs take this idea a step further. Aside from watching your food intake, Jewish tradition instructs pregnant moms to be careful of what they say and dol. Your moods, conversations, and actions at this time will have an impact on your baby’s health as well.
Modern scientific literature supports this idea. Being in a positive, upbeat, and loving atmosphere can have a good effect on the fetus’s health. When the mother is stressed and anxious, that can have a detrimental effect. In fact, there is a tradition in Jewish pregnancy customs not to go to the cemetery during pregnancy. Some suggest that this is because going to the cemetery can distress the expectant mother.
That’s the physical and emotional impact that you have on your child. But even more, you can also influence your child’s spiritual future at this time, through your actions during pregnancy. Where you go and what you see can have an impact on the neshama (soul) of the child you are carrying as well.
Going to shul (synagogue) or looking at the faces of holy people are spiritually beneficial acts you can do. A specific practice according to Jewish pregnancy customs is to avoid looking at impure animals, so, for example, some are careful not to go to the zoo.
When it comes to spiritual actions, one of the most potent things you can do during your pregnancy is to pray for your child. You can pray for your child’s physical, emotional, and spiritual health, as well as for his or her success in life. A mother’s prayers for a child are extra-powerful, and it’s never too early to start.
In fact, prayers for a child’s health before a child is born may be even more effective. Jewish sources state that everything hidden, as the health of an unborn child is, is more likely to be affected positively by prayers. Even with the advent of sonograms, fetal testing still doesn’t have 100% accuracy. Because the child’s health is still a hidden matter, prayers for health during pregnancy have an extra power.
There are other spiritually beneficial acts you can do during pregnancy, which are called segulos. Segulos for healthy pregnancy have proven extremely powerful for many people, helping them to carry successfully to full-term, to have an easier labor and delivery, and to merit a healthy child.
The following is a partial list of segulos for a healthy pregnancy.
What is a Segulah for Healthy Pregnancy?
As an expectant mom, you are constantly nurturing your child, even when you’re unaware of it. Most likely, you are also diligently taking your vitamins and carefully following doctor’s orders so that you can carry this pregnancy to full-term successfully and have a healthy baby.
There’s even more you can consciously do to protect your pregnancy, through gaining merits for your baby’s health. Fulfilling a segulah for healthy pregnancy is a positive spiritual action done in your baby’s merit, which can influence the outcome of the pregnancy.
The following segulos are recommended for women who want to maintain a healthy pregnancy. Some of these segulos are practiced specifically to prevent miscarriage, as noted.
- Pray for Health
Praying for your pregnancy’s health is a powerful segulah all on its own. When you pray, you acknowledge that Hashem is the One Who is keeping your pregnancy going, and that is a tremendous merit. In fact, there is a tradition that praying with emotion and especially with tears can prevent miscarriages.
To ask for special prayers for a healthy pregnancy at Rabbi Meir Baal Haness’s kever, see here.
- Check your Mezuzos
The mitzvah (commandment) of mezuzah (placing a parchment inscribed with verses from the Torah on one’s doorpost) is a spiritual protection for us. A segulah for healthy pregnancy is to have your mezuzos checked by a scribe to ensure that they are kosher. This way, you know that your spiritual protection is up to par.
- Take Challah
There are 3 mitzvos that are unique to a woman, (although of course she is obligated in all positive commandments). These are: hadlakas neiros (lighting the Shabbat candles), taharas hamishpachah (family purity), and hafrashas challah (separating a piece of dough).
Being careful with these 3 mitzvos is a zechus (merit) for a pregnant woman. A woman is only obligated in the mitzvah of challah with a bracha if she bakes a dough made of 5 lbs of flour. Making a batch of this size in order to be able to perform the mitzvah with a bracha shows that you are going the extra mile for your special mitzvah, and it serves as a merit for your pregnancy.
The time immediately after you separate the piece of dough for the mitzvah of challah is considered an auspicious time to daven for everything you need. These prayers for your unborn baby, accompanied by the mitzvah of challah, are extremely powerful.
There is also a formal prayer to recite during this time. The text is as follows:
יְהִי רָצוֹן מִלְּפָנֶיךָ יְיָ אֱלֹהֵינוּ וֵאלֹהֵי אֲבוֹתֵינוּ שֶׁהַמִּצְוָה שֶׁל הַפְרָשַׁת חַלָּה תֵּחָשֵׁב כְּאִלּוּ קִיַּמְתִּיהָ בְּכָל פְּרָטֶיהָ וְדִקְדוּקֶיהָ, וְתֵחָשֵׁב הֲרָמַת הַחַלָּה שֶׁאֲנִי מְרִימָה, כְּמוֹ הַקָּרְבָּן שֶׁהֻקְרַב עַל הַמִּזְבֵּחַ, שֶׁנִּתְקַבֵּל בְּרָצוֹן. וּכְמוֹ שֶׁלְּפָנִים הָיְתָה הַחַלָּה נְתוּנָה לַכֹּהֵן וְהָיְתָה זוֹ לְכַפָּרַת עֲוֹנוֹת, כָּךְ תִּהְיֶה לְכַפָּרָה לַעֲוֹנוֹתַי, וְאָז אֶהְיֶה כְּאִלּוּ נוֹלַדְתִּי מֵחָדָשׁ, נְקִיָּה מֵחֵטְא וְעָוֹן. וְאוּכַל לְקַיֵּם מִצְוַת שַׁבַּת קֹדֶשׁ וְהַיָּמִים הַטּוֹבִים עִם בַּעֲלִי (וִילָדֵינוּ), לִהְיוֹת נִזּוֹנִים מִקְּדֻשַּׁת הַיָּמִים הָאֵלֶּה. וּמֵהַשְׁפָּעָתָהּ שֶׁל מִצְוַת חַלָּה, יִהְיוּ יְלָדֵינוּ נִזּוֹנִים תָּמִיד מִיָּדָיו שֶׁל הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא, בְּרֹב רַחֲמָיו וַחֲסָדָיו, וּבְרֹב אַהֲבָה, וְשֶׁתִּתְקַבֵּל מִצְוַת חַלָּה כְּאִלּוּ נָתַתִּי מַעֲשֵׂר. וּכְשֵׁם שֶׁהִנְנִי מְקַיֶּמֶת מִצְוַת חַלָּה בְּכָל לֵב, כָּךְ יִתְעוֹרְרוּ רַחֲמָיו שֶׁל הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא לְשָׁמְרֵנִי מִצַּעַר :וּמִמַּכְאוֹבִים כָּל הַיָּמִים, אָמֵן
The English translation is as follows:
May it be Your Will, Eternal, our G-d, that the commandment of separating challah be considered as if I had performed it with all its details and ramifications. May my elevation of the challah be comparable to the sacrifice that was offered on the altar, which was acceptable and pleasing. Just as giving the challah to the Kohein in former times served to atone for sins, so may it atone for mine, and make me like a person reborn without sins. May it enable me to observe the holy Sabbath (or Festival of…) with my husband (and our children) and to become imbued with its holiness. May the spiritual influence of the mitzvah of challah enable our children to be constantly sustained by the hands of the Holy One, blessed is He, with His abundant mercy, loving-kindness, and love. Consider the mitzvah of challah as if I have given the tithe. And just as I am fulfilling this mitzvah with all my heart, so may Your compassion be aroused to keep me from sorrow and pain, always. Amen.
- Wear an Even Tekuma
The Talmud mentions a certain type of ruby-like precious stone, called an even tekuma, which a pregnant woman can wear to prevent miscarriage. Some Jewish sources claim that in today’s day, we don’t know exactly which precious stone is truly the even tekuma. However, there are gemachim (goodwill societies) who do offer an even tekuma for pregnant women to wear, as well as those who sell them. Before taking advantage of this segulah, you can check with your rabbi that it is something you should do.
- Donate to Charity
Donating to charity is a powerful segulah for healthy pregnancy. Practicing lovingkindness and giving to others arouses Hashem’s desire to be kind to us and give us, too, all that we need.
Therefore, there are those that advise a pregnant woman to give charity every day of her pregnancy, especially in the first 40 days of pregnancy. This is a segulah for healthy pregnancy as well as a segulah to avoid miscarriage.