HISPANIC CULTURAL VIEWS ON PREGNANCY:  PRENATAL THROUGH POST PARTUM


 
Please do not use the information provided for self-treatment of any kind. If you are pregnant please
seek medical attention from a Health Care Professional
 

  The Catholic religion and a deep respect for the advice and guidance of elders are two influences which are deeply rooted in Hispanic life.  The belief that all aspects of life can be represented as either "hot" or "cold" strongly influences the Hispanic culture as well (Paulank, 2005).   This web page will introduce  the views and experiences of four Hispanic woman with regards to their practices, beliefs, and traditions related to the entire child-bearing timeline--from prenatal care to labor and delivery to the post partum care of newborn and mother.  We would also like to state that the information presented on this page is in no way descriptive of the beliefs of the culture as a whole but only of those women who were interviewed for this project.  We hope that the page may be helpful in better understanding some practices of the Hispanic culture and that it may lead to the practice of more culturally sensitive nursing.  We must understand the culture in order to provide the best nursing care.




PRENATAL:
  • Some Hispanic women avoid foods that are considered to be "hot" by their culture because it is believed to cause the child to be born with spots and to be more susceptible to rashes:  i.e. chilies and coffee.
  • Foods such as shrimp, fish, oysters, and other shellfish are sometimes removed from the diet and the number of eggs reduced to avoid giving birth to a child with bad body odors.
  • Women are encouraged to eat foods which are high in iron such as beans.  Women also try to avoid eating grease during their pregnancy and will eat sesame soup and use plenty of cream as both are believed to aid in the production of better breast milk.
  • Women are encouraged to stay active (especially by walking) as this is said to help develop a healthier baby with a better temperament.
  • To avoid problems with the umbilical cord women are encouraged to not wear anything around the neck, no clothing that contains elastic, and to not reach upward for things such as clothing on a clothesline.
  • As the culture is very respectful of its elders, women will often look to mothers, aunts, and grandmothers for advice on all topics both during pregnancy and otherwise.
  • Some traditional hispanic beliefs say that if the woman's face stays nice and smooth, she doesn't gain much weight, and her stomach becomes pointed then she will have a boy.  Likewise, if the mother is more tired and gains more weight she is said to be having a girl.  The girl is thought to be "draining" the beauty from the mother.
  • Another tradition that may be seen in the Hispanic culture is the use of medallions, a red ball, or a rosary that is secured with a large safety pin to the clothing to prevent malformations in the child. 
  • Intercourse may be halted during pregnancy as it is believed to be harmful to the baby.  It can begin again one to three months after the birth.


LABOR & DELIVERY:
  • Some Hispanic woman may believe that they should not take any pain medications as the medication may not be good for the baby.
  • If the baby were found to be in a poor position for birth, it is the belief of some that crawling on the hands and knees can help to bring the baby back in to the correct position for birthing.
  • Older generations of Hispanic woman (especially in rural areas) frequently have their children at home with only a midwife present; however, hospital birthing is considered to be more safe.
  • Screaming during the labor and delivery is considered to be harmful to the baby.
  • Some traditional pain management techniques include controlled breathing, walking, counting forward and backward, or reciting letters of the alphabet.
  • The Hispanic family may want to take the umbilical cord, placenta, or both home with them after the birth.  The placenta may be planted below a fruiting tree as it is believed the child will grow and bear fruit as the tree grows.
  • Another tradition that may be seen during labor is that the mother may want to have bright clothing as it is said to bring a baby with a better attitude and intelligence.  Make-up is also not worn during the labor and delivery.


POST PARTUM

  • Some Hispanic traditions believe in the "Quarentena", which is a length of time (usually around 40 days after the birth) during which the mother and child are to remain in the home with limited visitors so that they can properly bond and are not exposed to infections from outside.  This time is also supposed to be helpful in bringing the uterus back into shape and for flattening the stomach.  During this time, some mothers may only take sponge baths.
  • Many Hispanic traditions believe that the fresh air is healthiest for the baby and that perfumes and scented cleaning agents should not be used in the home with the baby.
  • Various Hispanic traditions believe the baby must be kept warmly wrapped and wear socks at all times to keep from becoming chilled and to simulate the prenatal environment.
  • Cloth diapers might also be favored as the plastic on disposable diapers is believed to be bad for the baby's skin.
  • After several months of breastfeeding, some mothers believe that the nutritional value of their breast milk declines and that drinking a small amount of beer daily can help produce "levadura"--a stronger more healthy milk.
  • As the baby grows, Hispanic women may give the baby certain herbal teas (made with fresh herbs not from tea bags) to help calm a baby who may have colic.  The mother may also rub a food item into the back of the knees as it is believed to help develop strong bones.


RN TIPS:
  • Hispanic culture is traditionally very modest.  Male nurses may not be well accepted and mothers may be hesitant to accept any perineal interventions.
  • Translators can be very helpful in making the mother feel more comfortable and informed during the birthing process.
  • As the culture considers pregnancy to be a "hot" stage of life, sitz baths may not be well accepted.  Ice packs may be better accepted by Hispanic mothers.
  • RNs and doctors are very respected in the Hispanic culture and are expected to be competent and knowledgeable on all topics.  Their advice and directions will almost always be followed strictly (Paulank, 2005).


COMMON SPANISH WORDS, ENGLISH TRANSLATIONS, & PRONUNCIATIONS:

Dolor (doe lore) = Pain                                                             Hola (oh la) = Hello

Si (sea) = Yes                                                                               No = No

Bien (be en) = Good or well                                                      Mal = Poor or bad

Donde (doan day) = Where                                                       Bebe (bay bay) = Baby


Resources

Paulank, J.B., Purnell, L.D. (2005).  Guide to Culturally Competent Health Care:  Philadelphia:  F.A. Davis Company.

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