Pregnancy Traditions in Igbo Culture


Delay in becoming pregnant 

As soon as the marriage ceremony is over, the next thing on everyone’s minds is to see the wife pregnant. When pregnancy is delayed, it can be a challenging situation for the wife. In traditional Igboland, it is believed that it is the woman’s fault when pregnancy is not forthcoming. As a result, the wife becomes distressed when a waiting period passes before becoming pregnant. The wife’s family is also disturbed and does whatever is in their power to help their daughter conceive. For a woman to be married for a long time without being pregnant is somewhat shameful.

When the situation persists, the husband’s family pressures their son to take another wife who can provide him with a child. This situation can be particularly challenging for the husband who loves his wife but is under pressure from his family to show that he is genuinely a man by impregnating another woman. It is noteworthy that some men, at such times, have stood with their wives and patiently awaited. 

Traditional midwives

In traditional Igboland, some midwives were trained to help pregnant women. Their roles included prenatal care and delivery of the child. However, with the availability of western medicine, there are maternity centers in many Igbo communities. This avenue has significantly reduced the rate of infant mortality in Igboland.

Naming ceremony in Igboland 

The birth of a child is a joyous thing, and as it is in most places, it brings a lot of happiness to the parents and the community. The naming of a child is significant in Igboland because it gives identity to the child. Names are meaningful in Igboland for different reasons. A child may be given a name to remember a momentous event that would have occurred before their birth. At other times, it may be the name of a relative, living or deceased, who is dear to the parents. Every Igbo name has a meaning.

Igbo communities differ in when the naming ceremony should be conducted. The most prevalent is at eight or fourteen days from the birth of the child. The naming ceremony can be elaborate and lavish, depending on the family’s financial situation.

There is no standard procedure for naming a child in Igboland. It varies from place to place. However, what appears to be a constant to the Igbo communities is the following: it begins with prayers and the breaking of kola nuts. The ceremony sometimes includes placing a little salt in the child’s mouth. The salt is symbolic of introducing the child to the way of all the living. Again, this is not a standard practice.

After the child is named, the people are entertained, marking the end of the ceremony. Food and drinks are the primary forms of entertainment on such occasions. The ceremony is done for all children regardless of whether their parents are married. Gifts are not given as a custom, but friends of the family may bring some presents for the child being named.