Superstitions and Practices during Pregnancy

Nine months have gone by so quickly. The journey has been rewarding so far. I’ve definitely experienced and learned lots about my own culture when it comes to taking care of oneself (and baby in belly) during pregnancy. Most cultures, even in this day and age, still adhere to some traditional superstitions, be it as original as they were or practised with modern interventions. As for me, I’ve been tuned in to the Malaysian Chinese way of maintaining a healthy and safe pregnancy. From the type of food to my daily actions … sometimes I really wonder how these superstitions were formed in the first place. It really amazes me – as educated as I am in the 21st century of advanced science … I still find myself taking a step back to re-consider a superstition. Perhaps, I am the kind who is more willing to consider all options to guarantee the best … as long as it sounds reasonable enough and it is morally right. Typically, it doesn’t cost more money. It doesn’t hurt anybody. It just may prove to be a little more inconvenient at times. Who knew … I never expected my husband to be more cautious and strict in following superstitions considering he spent half of his life immersed in North American culture.

Anyhow, the following is a list of common pregnancy superstitions and my personal opinion and experience of its outcome. Will I continue to follow it? Probably, since I’ve already been through it. And it’s my job to annoyingly pass it down to my children in the future 🙂

 Do not announce your pregnancy until after 3 months has passed …

Superstition: I was told that by telling the whole world you are pregnant, it will “chase” or “scare” the baby’s spirit away thus leading to a miscarriage …

My two cents: I think through the years, research and science has showed that the first three months (first trimester) of pregnancy is unstable. A higher percentage of miscarriages occur during the first trimester. Some people may feel it is just wiser to wait until after the instability period is over to inform Uncle Joe and Aunt Sally. Others may not mind if the whole world knows what happened to the pregnancy. Most people are proud of sharing positive news, but when things turn around … there’s a lot to take in from the world, especially when the mother herself has to go through the emotional pains of a miscarriage. I remember my mom was so taken aback when I informed her of my pregnancy because she adhered strongly to this superstition. In my opinion, she was my mother and I wanted her to be the first person to know. I was looking for support and perhaps advice that can minimize the risks during the instability period. Yea, it wasn’t fun breaking the news to my mother. Oh well. Still, I think it is fine for immediate family members to know, but at the end of the day it is personal preference.

Do not … (throughout whole pregnancy)

  • Hammer nails into the wall
  • Stick anything on the wall
  • Re-arrange furniture (especially the bed you sleep on, and other large furnitures)
  • Renovate the house or move to a new home
  • Sit on the bed to cut anything
  • Place heavy boxes or luggage/suitcases on the bed
  • Open boxes or luggage/suitcases

Superstition: I was told that any of the above could “hurt” the baby’s spirit, which will then indirectly affect the fetus during the pregnancy. Common fears are development of clefts and undesirable birth marks in babies. Worst fear would be a risk of miscarriage.

My two cents: This one is still a mystery to me. I cannot seem to find a reasonable modern-age explanation for why this superstition exist. In general, I think people want their pregnancy to be smooth-sailing, so the above actions actually create an environment where it can be stressful for the mother-to-be. While the superstition here believes that the baby’s spirit is present around the house, and perhaps can be seen as always “following the mother (or father) close by”. Therefore, the actions that are taken can somehow affect the baby’s spirit, thus the fetus itself indirectly. I’ll share two stories; one relating to my sister and the other of my husband’s relative:

When my mother was pregnant with my sister, she had accidentally stuck some tape on the wall to hold something that had dropped out of place. Two hours later, she suddenly realized she had made a mistake as she remembered this superstition. She immediately removed the tape. My sister was born with a birth mark on her cheek. Fortunately, the pigmentation was not very dark and so her birth mark is not very obvious. My mother attributes this to the duration that tape was stuck on the wall. She still thinks that if it was left on the wall longer, my sister would have a darker birth mark on her cheek.

When my cousin-in-law was pregnant with her oldest child, she had experienced a lock-out from her own house. In a frantic effort to try and get back into the house, she had asked for help to break open the main door of her home. The people who helped her used a crowbar to force open the door. The thing to note here was that she was present at the doorstep while they were doing the work. Her baby was born with a cleft on his lip.

Coincidence?

However, I have to point out, it’s not like one is completely forbidden to do this. Of course, there will be circumstances where the above activities need to proceed. There are ways around it, and of course it is believed that the best way is to avoid doing it completely, especially living in a house which is going through major renovations. Even moving to a new home is a no-no during the pregnancy. It is advised to wait until baby is born before moving, especially if baby was conceived at the current home. My mother-in-law taught us a method of countering the negative effects of the superstition. When we were living in our apartment in US, we had to move some big furniture around to accommodate new furniture. First, I had to be out of the house. Before I exited the apartment, I had to “say” a few words to baby, informing her that daddy was going to move some furniture around and that it will be dangerous … so baby has to follow mummy out of the house. After I leave the apartment, my husband takes a broom and sweep in the air around the area that he was going to work on while saying in Cantonese, “Paak Mo Kaam Kei, Cheh Meh, Cheh Meh”, which in English instructs the baby’s spirit to move away for a moment or “please excuse me”. This method is believed to help temporarily shoo the baby’s spirit somewhere else to reduce the risk of injury to itself.

Placing heavy boxes or suitcases on the bed is believed to symbolize “pressing” on the mother’s womb thus posing a risk for miscarriage. Similarly, opening boxes or suitcases is symbolize opening or weakening the mother’s womb. You can pretty much guess the symbolic superstition of sitting on the bed to cut something while pregnant. I guess, during ancient times couples conceive children on the beds, hence the significance of the bed in this superstition. Also, the fact that the couple has successfully conceived in the current home, it is believed that the “luck” is present there. So moving to a new home, in which one doesn’t know what kind of “luck” or “energy” might be present (I blame this on the influence of Feng Shui and traditional religious beliefs), is a definite no-no because it could adversely affect the couple’s luck/fortune with the pregnancy.  The funny thing was, I started analyzing other activities such as when I’m cooking and handling the knife in the kitchen … wouldn’t that be even more dangerous since I cook almost everyday? My mother said the superstition doesn’t apply in that situation. She did not really give me a good explanation as to why … so no further comments here.

At the end of the day, I really do not know the true logic of this superstition, but we ended up following our parents’ advice anyway to the best of our ability. I can’t recall if I did any of the above activities carelessly. To be honest, I know in North America, many mothers-to-be decorate and furnish the baby’s nursery during their pregnancy. I’m sure their babies have turned out fine? Perhaps, you can disapprove this superstition by sharing your experience here!

Do not eat crab during your pregnancy

Superstition: It is believed that your baby will be born as a thief. The symbolic meaning here is that the crab has many limbs, which somehow associates a person with “many hands” to stealing, pickpocketing, etc …

My two cents: I have no real data to evaluate this superstition, haha! But I think it’s more of a health concern rather than the future profession of the child? Anyhow, eating anything as long as it is in moderation is fine to me!

Do not attend weddings during your pregnancy

Superstition: This superstition can be related to the traditional Chinese belief of a person’s birth time, Four Pillars of Destiny (生辰八字 Shēng Chén Bā Zì, see link). Most traditional Chinese weddings choose an auspicious date for their wedding celebration, and in reality this auspicious day may not be everybody’s lucky day because each person has their own Four Pillars of their birth time. The Chinese believes the qi energy and the “luck” of the bride and groom is at their highest on their wedding day. If the pregnant mother’s 生辰八字 somehow clashes with the bride and groom’s, there is a risk that the counter force or energy will backfire and cause harm to the health and luck of the pregnant mother, thus indirectly affecting the fetus.

My two cents: Personally, I’d like to be present at any wedding celebration, especially if it’s relatives’. I think the superstition is more of a safety precaution for the pregnant mother. One just has to be careful since weddings can get crowded and stressful because of the noise and activities. The one method that I’ve always been told to avoid the “clash” is not to look directly at the bride and groom when they first enter the house or the reception area. I have not attended any weddings during my pregnancy so I can’t speak for myself. But I’ve noticed other relatives who were pregnant and attended weddings utilize this method in light of this superstition, and their pregnancies have turned out fine.

Do not sit facing the sharp point edge of a rectangle or square table

Superstition: This one is related to Feng Shui, I believe. The “Sha Qi” or poison arrows in Feng Shui terminology literally means “killing” energy. It is believed that the bad energy being directed to the belly in this sitting position is harmful for the fetus/pregnancy.

My two cents:  I’m quite a believer of Feng Shui, I must say. Although, I pick which Feng Shui and the related situation to believe. As for this, my mother-in-law kept insisting I avoided sitting in this position, especially when we try to squeeze many people around a table. She would always take that seat for me, so I would say she is a strong advocate of this superstition. In my opinion, the logical modern-day explanation for this is again, a safety precaution for preggy mom. There’s always a risk that a sharp pointy edge will hurt mother’s belly, mostly by accident. So to avoid any such unwanted occurrences … perhaps, the superstition proves to be helpful for some 🙂

Do not look at frightening or ugly images of animals, monsters, or other fictional characters out there

Superstition: It is believed that your baby will have a resemblance to those images.

My two cents: To be honest, the one example of this superstition I’ve heard of is if a pregnant mother gets frightened by a monkey or a cat. Then the baby’s face will have a resemblance to a monkey or a cat. I don’t know how true this is, but don’t you ever wonder sometimes … at some point in your life where you’ve come across people who do … resemble … ?? Whether or not their mothers were frightened by these images, who knows? However, my mother keeps telling me to avoid watching horror/thriller movies or Discovery channel featuring snakes or other not so pleasant looking animals. Even, the movie “The Hobbit” was somewhat frightening with the images of the ghouls and trolls. I don’t know if it really affects the baby’s look at the end of the day, but I think I’ll just stick to looking at pretty things or cute, chubby baby photos.

Well, well. These are the few key ones I remember from my pregnancy. Perhaps, you have something to share from your culture?

48 Comments

  1. I had a miscarriage in early pregnancy while finishing remodeling the current home, where baby was conceived, and getting ready to move to a new home and town. The day before it happened I’ve opened a big suitcase and my husband got some boxes to start packing. It might have all been a big coincidence and I haven’t heard of this superstitian until after the fact, but in the future I rather avoid the stress to be safe.

    Reply

    1. I’m sorry to hear that, Minh. Thank you for sharing your experience with me. We never know if it is a coincidence or not hey? Yes, even for me, I found most of the superstitions hard to believe. But like you said, better to trust it for a little while just to be safe.

      Reply

  2. How about building my sons bunk bed? We did not move our bed at all or nail anything on the wall. We just build a bunk bed for my two older sons.

    Reply

      1. Oh no! We built the bunk bed a week ago. Then I hope nothing will happen to my baby. hope I will have a healthy and pretty baby. Pls forgive me!! 😦

  3. what happen if I have to fix the a leaking pipe built inside the wall where some hacking will require? water coming out from the floor tiles. Plumber will be here and my husband will have to monitor them.

    Reply

    1. If it’s an emergency, I guess you really do have to proceed with the repairs. Perhaps you can try to arrange it so that you will not be at home when the repairs occur. And remember to talk to your baby to ask baby to follow you wherever you go, and that there will be alot of work repairs going on at home. At least that’s what I did with my pregnancy when my parents had to fix their roof leaking problems too. All the best!

      Reply

  4. I am from India… and most of the above superstition are followed here too… was thinking to relocate our home and that is when my parents told a strict no. That made me to google to see what the world says… now i gotta obey my parents…

    Reply

    1. I’m sure you’ll be fine dear! My mother-in-law told we shoukd avoid cutting snything while sitting on the bed. If you are in the bedroom but not sitting on the bed, should be fine. If you choose to believe the superstition, do practise with caution in the future 🙂

      Reply

  5. I am 4month plus pregenent i went to my friend place n she is using thumb tac to pin the mahjong paper on the table using hammer n i was in her room will anything happen to my baby i am so so worried now 😥

    Reply

  6. in my family, the only thing I’ve heard is that you can’t call the baby in utero the name you intend to call it. my grandmother calls them milk names. she said that giving the baby a false name will trick the devil into searching the world for a soul that doesn’t exist, so the baby’s soul is safe. it’s a pretty cool story, even if I’m not sure where it came from or why my family believes it.

    Reply

    1. That’s really interesting! I think we practise it too in the Chinese tradition, although it never really crossed my mind to talk to the baby in utero using the name I intend to call it. I guess it was just natural to call it “baby” or “little one” instead of a name haha.

      Reply

  7. Someone in my office has just found out that she is pregnant and we have scheduled to rearrange the office furniture for two other colleagues but we are all in the same space. Any advice?

    Reply

  8. Hi, can i doing urgent minor reno at home and am hide in another room. I asked bb to ‘siam’ and 8 mou kam ket’. Do u think is fine to bb. Im very worry now. My hubby says dont think negatively. Pleass help my mind still thinking of it.

    Reply

    1. Well dear, if your reno is urgent and you can’t find anothr place to stay temporarily, don’t need to stress. Stress directly affects your baby. So try to listen to calm music if the noises form the reno are bothering you. Do something relaxing. Don’t worry, I agree with your husband. Remember it is a superstition, there is no real proof that it is accurate. If it feels better tell your baby every morning or when the reno is going to start everyday that there are people going to be fixing things, so pls stay close to mummy. If there is any relief, I had to live with some minor reno at my parents place too. My bb turned out fine!

      Reply

  9. How about giving ‘angpow’ (money in form of red packet) to another colleague that has just delivered when you are pregnant? Will that be considered as conflict of luck?

    Reply

    1. I haven’t heard of that before. In my opinion, I don’t think it is anything wrong. In fact, I believe the more blessings you give to others, your baby will receive twice as much! 🙂

      Reply

  10. Hi, my maid stick pictures on the cupboard not on wall but my husband has take it down already. Is my bb fine? I’m worry

    Reply

  11. My daughter in law is pregnant with twins. She is Chinese and will not allow us to tell anyone who is not immediate family about the twins until after they are born. What is the superstition here?

    Reply

  12. Thank you for sharing this. Never really knew what it meant when I was told to say “But mo gum ghay” out loud with the broom, sweeping the area of where we are going to move furniture around or to drill any holes on the wall. My family is extremely traditional and superstitious and it drives me off the roof. I really hate knowing the fact that my life has to revolve around these silly superstitions from before we got married, to getting married, to conceiving, to now being pregnant. I am honestly so fed up with these superstitions because I can’t be my normal self and live a normal life.

    I am not here to bash on your superstition because I heard them all from my family and being reminded of it every single day. It is a bit irritating. Other’s who are not Chinese, their babies were all born normal with no issues. And again it’s superstitions, theres no way of proving it.

    I am pregnant now and my husband is forbidden to install curtains in our bedroom. The sunlight drives me insane because I am not so sensitive to the sun (e.g. headaches, nausea…). I can no longer suffer for another 5 months before the babies are out.

    Do you think I’ll be okay to install the curtains (yes drilling some holes), do the “But mo gum ghey” and broomstick sweep? That also means moving the bed that we sleep in. Sigh. This is frustrating!

    Reply

    1. Hello Stephanie, I hear your frustrations. When I was pregnant with my first child, I followed it just because I felt there was no harm in doing it. It definitely is an inconvenience, and I started to question the logic to some of them too. So when I was pregnant with my second child, I cut some slack with it, although I didn’t really complain about it to my parents or in laws because I’ll know I’ll get a huge backlash which may end up in more arguments! I just did what I wanted, and you know if you are brave enough to accept any criticism that comes along with it (if something does really happen to you or baby….touch wood!), then go ahead and do what you feel is right. Have you tried using a sleeping mask? that may help too if the sun is too bright in the room for you to rest. Good luck babe! And take it easy!

      Reply

  13. I’m 1 month pregnant and we, my husband and i are planning to get a contractor to construct a house since we are still renting. Is constructing a house bad for pregnant woman?

    Reply

    1. Usually it is the noise that is the most disturbing to pregnant women, as the sounds of the drills and hammering can be very uncomfortable for some. If you do choose to believe in the superstition, best to hold off on such a major renovation. Otherwise, you may need to move out and stay somewhere else temporarily should the renovation continue. All the best!

      Reply

  14. My living room curtain track dislodge from the wall I have to unscrew and alight and screw back. My Wife is around during this work. Any issue with this?

    Reply

  15. My curtain track dislodge from the wall I have to screw and some hammering and alight back the track. My Wife is around during this work. Any issue with this?

    Reply

  16. I am 7 weeks pregnant and yesterday we had powder room remodeling. I was at home too. Will it effect baby? at this starting stage of pregnancy?

    Reply

  17. I am 20 weeks pregnant and like to move into a 2 bed room apartment in 4 weeks. I am planning to use mover and get as much help as possible with the packing so I don’t put stress on my body. Would this impact the baby?

    Reply

    1. That’s great to hear you will be using movers for your move. If you believe the superstition, do take extra precaution as moving may involve many activities that may or may not involve you directly. Be sure to avoid lifting heavy objects, overstretching, watch out for any trip hazards, etc… good luck!

      Reply

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