Should Pregnant Women Attend Funerals? Superstition or Science?
You're well into your pregnancy and someone you know has passed. Or you're interested in supporting a good friend with the passing of his or her loved one.
But there's one problem, you've been cautioned that pregnant women should not attend funerals and if you absolutely must attend, you definitely should not look at the deceased. Why?
History of Pregnant Women and Funerals
Most tales told throughout the years are so old and misremembered that it's hard to pinpoint their origin.
However, the belief that pregnant women should not go to funerals has an origin in several different religions and cultures.
Death will always have its ties to negative, bad or demonic things, just as birth has ties to newness, positivity and angelic things.
In Jewish culture, many people believe in what is called the "evil eye" (ayin hara). The job of this eye is to seek out those who are happy and cause them misfortune. In the case of pregnancy, it could be said that you don't want to risk attracting the evil eye to the happy occasion. (Ask Rabbi Lerner).
Iroquois culture has many rules regarding the life of pregnant women.
With regard to attending funerals, the belief is that an unborn child will want to return to the Spirit World with the deceased, resulting in a miscarriage.
In Christian, especially African American Christian culture, pregnant women may attend funerals if necessary, but viewing the deceased is a no-no. The best reasoning I've heard thus far is similar to the beliefs of those from the Jewish religion.
I have also been told that the exposure will curse the unborn child, causing him or her be born looking dead. Spiritual people believe in the spirit of things and the power of those spirits even if they can't see them. In addition to refraining from activity causing one to bear lifeless looking children, pregnant women are also advised not to visit zoos and look at the animals.
These activities and many others are marks for an unborn child and many pregnant women are not too happy about the idea of marking their children with negative energy before they even get a chance to see the light of day.
Pregnancy and Stress
The undisputed science of the matter is that stress causes changes in the physiology of your body. A person under stress goes through chemical changes and the brain begins reacting to those changes causing other functions in the body to either spike in activity or slow down.
Under stress, a person typically does not sleep well. Without sufficient sleep, a person's immune system becomes more ineffective. For a pregnant woman, those kinds of physiological changes have unhealthy potential depending on the length of time a stressor is allowed to affect the woman. What a pregnant woman under high, long-term stress can probably expect is pre-mature birth from a decreased immune system function which can also easily open the body up to infection (MarchofDimes.com).
A recent study written in The New York Times alleges moderate stress on pregnant women can be beneficial for a couple of reasons: 1. Stress provides the fetus with the hormone cortisol which promotes organ growth and development. 2. Highly stressed women are typically high achievers and are more likely to demand high-achieving children.
Another study discussed on WebMD talks of stressors, such as abuse, affecting the gene connected to stress response and behavior in children whose mothers experienced stress while pregnant.
Pre-exposure to severe stress made these unborn children more vulnerable to stress throughout life. Let us not forget the varying factors contributing to stress: culture, gender, race, religion, family, environment, career.
Have You Ever Attended a Funeral While Pregnant?
Superstition or Science
There is no one credible source identifying the origin of the belief that pregnant women should not attend funerals. As I searched for proof of what funerals do to unborn children, I found nothing but uncertainty and pure superstition. It just turns out to be one of those things. The belief definitely has religious origins, more likely than not birthed from a mixture of religious beliefs and cultural practices.
I attended a funeral while pregnant in support of a good friend whose mother had died. I also did not view the body, not because I was pregnant, but because I have other issues when it comes to the dead.
In my third trimester I wanted to support another good friend during the death of her newborn, but at the time, taking a long road trip would not have been the most comfortable for me so I sent my love and condolences instead. However, I have known other pregnant women who attended a funeral and have been blessed with healthy, lively-looking newborns shortly after.
Therefore, the only logical reason a pregnant woman should not attend a funeral is if the event will initiate or contribute to stress or depression, which can be more harmful to the mother and child than the events surrounding the stress.
More Pregnancy Beliefs and Practices
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.