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Are There Jewish Customs for Pregnancy and Birth?

Are There Jewish Customs for Pregnancy and Birth?



Is there a Jewish way for pregnancy? Are there any customs that I should be aware of? Is there anything my husband could or should do? This is our first baby, and we want to do this right!


May you have an easy pregnancy, and may the birth be uneventful and in an auspicious time.

The months of pregnancy are a very precious and delicate time. As your doctor has surely informed you, the attitude, behavior and nutritional choices of the mother during this time have a profound impact on the health and future development of the fetus. Recent medical studies also point to the effects of the physical and emotional environment on the unborn baby. The pregnant woman should be surrounded by a positive, calm and tranquil atmosphere. Anger and anxiety should be avoided whenever possible.

The same is true with regards to the spiritual development of the embryo and fetus; the behavior of the mother as well as her environment have lifelong effects on the developing new life. Our sages encourage women to utilize the pregnancy months by increasing in good deeds and spiritual refinement.

Towards this end, the pregnant woman should attend synagogue services as often as possible, and participate in Torah study classes. (Click here to find a synagogue service and/or Torah class in your area.)

While all good deeds and mitzvot are beneficial to the unborn child, our sages specifically stress the value of giving extra charity. Being kind to others causes G‑d to treat us in corresponding fashion. In addition to the regular charity one distributes, charity should be given every day—having a charity box at home facilitates this practice. The most auspicious time to give charity is before the Shabbat or Jewish holiday candle-lighting. At that time additional charity should be given, considering that on the following day one will be unable to give charity, due to the restriction against handling money on these holy days.

Just as a pregnant woman must be meticulous regarding her nutritional needs, she must also be careful with her “spiritual nutrition.” Eating only kosher foods has an extremely positive impact on the fetus.

The following are some other pregnancy- and birth-related customs which are practiced by various Jewish communities:

  • Some have the custom to keep a pregnancy secret from friends and acquaintances until the onset of the fifth month, unless it becomes plainly apparent. This restriction does not include close family members.1
  • Some have the custom for the husband to open the synagogue ark before the Torah reading during the last month of pregnancy. The Zohar says, “When the congregation takes out the Torah Scroll, the Heavenly Gates of Mercy are opened, and G‑d’s love is aroused.” The husband opening the Gates of Heaven hopefully elicits G‑d’s merciful blessing that the birth be easy and without complications.
  • In certain communities it is customary for the pregnant woman to immerse in a mikvah sometime during the ninth month of pregnancy. Speak to your local rebbetzin or “mikvah lady” regarding planning and preparations. It is advisable to consult with your OB/GYN before going to the mikvah.
  • During the term of pregnancy, both mother and father should increase their recitation of Psalms.2
    Before going to bed, it is customary for the husband to recite Psalm 20. When finishing, he should repeat the second verse of the Psalm.
  • The home’s mezuzahs should be inspected by a scribe during the months of pregnancy. If one does not have mezuzahs on all the home’s doorways, now is a great time to purchase new mezuzahs.
  • A pregnant woman should endeavor to be exposed to spiritual and holy sights and sounds. To this end, whenever possible she should avoid gazing at non-kosher animals (trips to the zoo can wait until after birth . . . ),3 and listening to gossip, slander, or other unsavory talk.
  • In many communities, pregnant woman do not visit cemeteries. Perhaps this is to avoid settings which can lead to negative emotions.
  • There is an ancient custom for the pregnant woman to sew a sash (known as the gartel or wimple) for a Torah scroll. If the newborn is a son, the sash is used on the Torah from which he receives his Bar Mitzvah aliyah, and then once again the aliyah on the Shabbat before his wedding.
  • It is customary to have a copy of Psalm 121 on hand during birth. Click here for an easy-to-print version.
  • If possible, during the final stages of labor and delivery, the husband should recite these Psalms: 1, 2, 3, 4, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 33, 47, 72, 86, 90, 91, 92, 93, 104, 112, and 113 through 150.

Refer to the following links for more information on these topics:

Shabbat and Holiday Candle-Lighting
Opening the Ark
Inspecting Mezuzahs

Rabbi Dovid Zaklikowski,


This is a Chabad-Lubavitch custom. While no reason is given for this custom, some have speculated that it is intended to avoid bringing any unnecessary attention to the unborn child. Click here for more on this topic.


The Book of Psalms is divided into thirty sections, with one section customarily recited on each day of the Jewish month. If not yet practicing this custom, now is certainly a good time to start. (Click here to read the daily Psalms in Hebrew and English.) During pregnancy, it is appropriate to add some extra Psalms, in addition to the standard daily regimen.


While all animals are G‑d’s creatures and have a Divine purpose, non-kosher animals have certain negative traits which are best avoided.

Chana & Dovid Zaklikowski are the proud parents of four: Motty, Meir, Shaina & Moshe Binyomin.
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Discussion (30)
May 10, 2016
Interesting post on the jewish custom. Your post reminds me about one of my friend who is also an OB in Cloudninecare hospital. She also used to share interesting customs of Jews like Jewish customs is the oldest of the world's three great monotheistic religions. Jewish people strongly believes that God would send a powerful messenger (the Messiah) who would deliver Israel from her oppressors and usher in a reign of peace and prosperity.
Ankita Baipayi
December 13, 2015
Re: Tehilim 20
It was encouraged by the Rebbe in many letters to expecting couples, based on earlier sources.
Eliezer Zalmanov
December 9, 2015
Tehilim 20
Is psalm 20 a chabad custom?
September 9, 2014
Losing a child before she/he's even born is devastating to a parent. Although there are no specific Jewish rituals to mark this loss, it is entirely appropriate to offer comfort and consolation to the bereaved parents. (This, of course, only if it was public knowledge.) No rituals....just the caring of a friend who recognizes the pain of this loss. In addition, making a donation, for example, to a cause that is dear to the parents - honouring the child un-born - is a way to mark loss by creating some good.
Bronya Shaffer
September 1, 2014
End of pregnancy before birth
I have a friend who miscarried during the end of the second trimester. Are there any rules, suggestions as to how to comfort the parents for this loss
July 28, 2014
Calm during pregnancy
I used to sit on the floor with my back up against the stereo - and have playing music that I enjoyed.

It was fun to see my growing up child love to dance - and did so into adulthood.

I did the same when pregnant with second child. He's not into dancing.

Neither plays a musical instrument.

Alas, neither is into religion - she converted to Catholicism and he's not into any of that, including Israel. Oh well. I did my best.

It does take a village - and my village was 500 miles away and his village in the same town couldn't have cared less.

I loved being pregnant, loved holding my babies, loved that G-d blessed me with two and had wisdom to not give me 4 to raise by myself.

Just do your best and try to stay calm during pregnancy - speak softly, take good care of yourself prenatal (I did both) and hope for the best in the future.
Meira Shana
San Diego
November 11, 2013
To Hadassah regarding Positivity
Hadassah - How nice to hear from you on this topic. I thought it had probably been put to rest by now. I don't know if your remarks were directed at me but if they were, I think I was pretty clear about the fact that we should all respect other's beliefs. The caveat here, however, is that it has to work both ways.. If looking at non-kosher animals at the zoo is offensive to a pregnant woman and her beliefs, then she should not look at the animals. On the other hand, if l, when I was pregnant, wanted to look at the non-kosher animals at the zoo, that was my prerogative. Please don't put my beliefs down and tell me that I am any less of a Jew than you are. My babies turned out just fine and were not influenced negatively because of my looking at any non-kosher animals when I was pregnant. We all have choices to make. Let us live in harmony and respect each other's choices. I think that is the real message here.
Barbara Niles
Phoenix, Arizona
November 4, 2013
This article is about customs that people may or may not choose to do, there is no reason to bash any of these traditions that Jews have been doing for thousands of years. Calling them nonsense is disrespectful, just like a person doesn't want to be disrespected for not observing Jewish customs, others don't want to be disrespected for honoring them as well. If you don't want to do them, that is perfectly fine, but I think we should keep the comment positive, look at a pig, don't look at pig....we are talking about bringing new Jewish life into the world, one of the holiest mitzvot that we do!
October 24, 2012
To Anonymous Re: Negative Energy, etc.
Do i detect a bit of sarcasm in your reply? Again, beliefs are a personal choice. Even if I don't agree with your choice to believe what you want and to remain anonymous, I respect your choice to do so. Along the same lines, I would hope that you respect my beliefs and choices too. The fact that I look at all the animals in the zoo and would do so even if I were pregnant does not mean that I am less sensitive than you are or less tuned in. And P.S., humanity will be fine and survive regardless of who looks at what animals during pregnancy!
Barbara Niles
Phoenix, AZ
October 23, 2012
Negative energy etc.
This comment is directed to those who think like Barbara: some people tune into the metaphysical, some do not. For those who do not, no amount of spiritual explanation will convince them that staring at kosher animals and birds- herbivores- leads to less insensitivity than does staring at animals and birds that are most often carnivores or omnivores.There's no point in trying to convince them otherwise.They either tune into it or don't. If they don't, they often consider it superstition. What else is new?Best wishes to all humanity.
Brooklyn, N.Y.