As you probably already know, the Amish community is closed off from the outside world in terms of technology and most other modern advances. So, what does this way of life mean for women when it comes to being pregnant? Owing to their lack of most things we take for granted (like electricity and painkillers), you might assume that an Amish pregnancy and eventual childbirth is a horrific and medieval affair. In some aspects, you’d be right, but the Amish way of life makes pregnancy simple, and this is kind of a good thing.
The idea of taking things back to basics might seem scary if you’re pregnant, but in some ways, Amish women are at an advantage. Sure, the lack of pain relief probably sucks and the conditions they give birth in are far from excellent, but their lack of awareness when it comes to all the gory details and risks of childbirth probably takes away a lot of their fear of childbirth and probably makes the whole experience more natural.
Maybe Amish women have the right idea. Women have had children in a simple way since the dawn of time. On the other hand, the idea of a natural birth–as beautiful as it may sound–will make most modern women cringe (myself included). Amish women follow little or none of the usual pregnancy rituals, choosing to ban everything from baby showers and drugs to making sounds during labor (yep, you read that right). Here are 15 ways the Amish deal with pregnancy and most of it ain’t pretty.
15. Pregnancies Are Never Discussed Or Even Acknowledged
In our modern era of social media, the idea of keeping quiet about a pregnancy is unthinkable (to most people anyway). How often have you scrolled through your Facebook or Instagram feed to see friends announcing their bun in the oven with a picture of tiny shoes placed next to theirs or by showing an actual bun in the oven? We’re so used to sharing everything online that to hold back from such a massive milestone in our lives seems crazy.
The Amish community may be without the internet, but surely, they still bask in the joy of pregnancy with their family and close friends, right? Not so much. According to one anonymous friend of a pregnant Amish woman, the subject was never even hinted at and most of the time, she only realized her friends were expecting when they appeared weeks later with a baby in tow. They don’t announce their pregnancy to anyone but the midwife!
14. Home Births Every Time
Because of the whole water birth fad, having your baby at home is becoming more and more popular around the world as it offers women the privacy and comfort of being in a familiar environment. If you’re a pregnant Amish woman, though, you usually have no choice in the matter. Every birth you have must be at home. By the 1920’s, more and more American women began going to the hospital to give birth. But as modern medical interventions are a no-no, Amish women stayed put.
According to a former midwife on an Amish farm, the childbirth process is really as medieval as we imagined it to be. The midwife turned blogger recalled that water is boiled on the stove in advance and extra lanterns are ready (in case of a night delivery). Also, the woman is usually expected to give birth in bed wearing a long white nightgown. Perfect color choice, if you ask us!
13. Their Only Knowledge Of Childbirth Comes From Older Amish Women
Normally, if a pregnant woman wishes to educate herself about the pregnancy experience–from what foods to eat to the 12-week scan and beyond–she will have the internet and a wealth of books to help her feel prepared. But in the restrictive Amish community, any woman with a bun in the oven will typically only have one point of reference when it comes to giving birth and everything in between—their mothers or older Amish women in the family.
In the Amish community, formal education usually stops at 8th-grade level, and whatever knowledge young girls have about the birds and the bees or the child rearing process by then is presumably pretty limited. To be fair, having older women as your guide to pregnancy is better than nothing. But without the internet (or your local Doc on speed dial), pregnancy as an Amish lady could feel a little lonely and even more daunting than it has to be.
12. In Emergencies, Some Amish Women Will Give Birth In A Hospital
We tend to think of the Amish as people who reject all aspects of modern life no matter what. But, this isn’t always true. In certain circumstances (like a medical emergency, for instance), an expectant Amish woman will often go to a nearby hospital to give birth. If a birth looks to be dangerous, their antiquated delivery methods and medical help can prove very risky, so they have to bite the bullet and go with modern assistance.
If they can help it, though, a pregnant Amish woman will never give birth anywhere other than their own home. Hospital births are usually rejected because of high costs and lack of privacy for the mother, but mainly because the Amish community does not believe in taking orders from medical professionals and fear that they are insensitive to Amish beliefs and practices. Belief shmief—when my time comes, I wanna be numb from the waist down, whatever my midwife’s belief system!
11. Very Late Pregnancies Are The Norm
A woman’s gestation period is normally 40 weeks. The unborn baby usually spends around 38 weeks in the uterus with an extra two weeks counted from the day of a woman’s last period. Unsurprisingly, Amish women don’t play by the rules of what we would consider a ‘normal’ pregnancy time frame. Since no health professional is around to induce labor when the baby is overdue, many Amish mothers tend to just let nature take its course and sometimes, this can mean giving birth 2 or 3 weeks later than most women do. Ouch!
Late and overly-mature babies are not uncommon in the world, but at least pregnant women have a medical professional on hand advising them and making sure that the baby is okay. Mature babies tend to be at greater risk, with the chance of a stillbirth doubling after the 42-week mark. Still, Amish women are happy to let nature tell them when their baby is ready to come into the world.
10. Forget Screaming Out In Pain
You may have heard that other secluded religious groups, such as Scientology, prefer their women to give birth in near silence. Well, apparently, the same is true for pregnant women in the Amish community. Screaming and yelling out in agony is totally fine during labor. It’s something you kind of expect when there’s a person coming out of you, and you should have every right to do so. Unless you happen to be raised in the Amish faith, that is.
Amish women believe that the process of childbirth is sacred and should be respected as such by ensuring that the mother remains silent throughout. (Oh, we should probably point out at this stage that Amish women in labor have no access to painkillers either). So, how the hell is a silent birth possible? And what happens if they let a little cry of pain slip out? Are they punished? After a drug-free childbirth, surely, no punishment is needed. Nope, nope, a thousand times no to this!
9. Work Doesn’t Stop When Heavily Pregnant
We have maternity leave for a reason in the outside world. As women reach the end of their pregnancy, back pain increases, contractions can become more frequent and painful, and you simply become too tired to do anything more intensive than walking up the stairs. Understandably, no one should be made to work in these conditions. The health of the mother-to-be and unborn baby is too precious to jeopardize for the sake of some household chores, right? Not according to the Amish.
Whilst Amish women are in their last trimester of pregnancy (not that they would refer to it as a ‘trimester’), they carry on with their chores as normal. What makes this even more hardcore is when you consider what actually constitutes as ‘chores’ in the Amish community. They go beyond simply washing the dishes and folding laundry. Amish women have to maintain the family farm! Farm work can exhaust grown men, but expecting a heavily pregnant lady to do the same? Wow!
8. Baby Showers Are Taboo
You probably already figured that the Amish are not big on vanity, and baby showers fall under this category. Since women barely acknowledge their bump with anyone except their husband and midwife, they see no need or desire to celebrate their news in the way most women do with a baby shower or similar kind of gathering. Babies are considered a blessing in the Amish world for sure, but they reject the materialistic element that comes with a baby shower.
What we might see as a helping hand and a kind gesture towards people we love, the Amish community sees as a taboo ritual that draws too much attention to the parents. A baby shower is seen as nothing more than a way of begging others for presents and material goods. Amish women don’t reject all gifts for their baby, however. A newborn baby is often gifted with a handmade quilt either handed down from the previous generation or made especially for their arrival.
7. No Ultrasounds Allowed Either
One of the most exciting rituals in the early stages of pregnancy is to go for an ultrasound scan as it gives the mom and her partner a sneak preview of their child for the first time. It probably doesn’t feel real for most parents-to-be until they see that first magical ultrasound pic and hear the baby’s heartbeat. So understandably, having an ultrasound is a really big deal. Because Amish women shun all forms of modern medical intervention, ultrasounds play no part in their pregnancy.
Other than the first signs of a bump, the first time an Amish woman might show a little excitement about having a person growing inside her is the first kick from the baby. I suppose the added mystery makes the whole experience of being pregnant a little more exciting for Amish women. On the downside, any issues that could be identified and prevented in their child won’t ever become known.
6. Mothers Hire A Nanny After Birth
While Amish women carry on with their chores up until they’re ready to pop, they are normally allowed to rest and recover after giving birth (only fair, really!) and are given time to bond with their new bundle of joy for the first few weeks. What some people may not realize is that new Amish mothers will tend to do something that is pretty consistent with modern moms by hiring a kind of nanny to take care of things in their absence.
A nanny in Amish circles is referred to as a “hired girl” who normally helps out for about a month after the baby arrives. The unmarried hired girl usually earns just $15 a week to do everything from cooking, cleaning, laundry, maintaining the house, and looking after other children in the family home. While we applaud the Amish people for letting new mothers take it easy for the first few weeks, $15 a week is pitiful when you consider what poor Mary Poppins is expected to do!
5. Pregnancy Goes By Quicker
Although there are a lot of crazy pregnancy methods on this list, perhaps this is one we should all get on board with in the non-Amish world because a long pregnancy is definitely no fun. Because Amish women don’t believe in due dates and inducing labor, their pregnancy tends to pass by a lot quicker, and in some cases, they tend to be in labor for less time since they really do wait until the baby is 100% ready to come out.
Having a due date in mind probably makes it quite exciting since you have a countdown, giving yourself time to plan for baby shopping and painting the nursery etc. But before long, the pain and fatigue of being pregnant literally and emotionally weigh you down to the point that you just want the baby out of you! Amish women don’t have this problem since they are keeping busy until nature tells them it’s time to stop. The chance to have a quicker pregnancy and labor? No-brainer.
4. Not A Vaccine In Sight
There are plenty of families who opt out of giving certain injections to their newborn babies on religious grounds. The trend for holistic parenting is nothing new, but Amish mothers take this to a whole other level. As you know, those living in the Amish community don’t believe in medical intervention of any kind, so all the usual injections and vaccines that pregnant women need in order to protect their unborn child against things like whooping cough and the flu are out of the question.
If this sounds crazy, you might be horrified to know that Amish women forego any vaccines or treatments after they’ve given birth too, so their babies receive none of the usual medical care that most newborns do. As extreme as this approach sounds, it seems to work for Amish women. Their pregnancies tend to be a lot less complicated as a result, and many women manage to give birth with little complications well into their 40’s.
3. Amish Women Insure Themselves
With the mounting cost of diapers, clothes, and food, children don’t come cheap, but one of the costliest parts of having children is the actual act of having them. In the U.S., a routine vaginal birth–based on a study in California–can cost between $3,296 and a whopping $37,227 (and these figures are the cost if you happen to have insurance!). So, how do Amish women afford to have a baby in a place where insurance doesn’t even exist?
Well, technically, insurance does exist in the Amish community. They insure themselves. When it comes to getting pregnant as an Amish woman, all the potential costs are already arranged in advance. If a woman can’t afford the birth, the local church normally pays for it on their behalf. What’s more, if an Amish woman has complications during the birth and requires an emergency hospital visit, the local community and neighbors all rally around to pay for the treatment.
2. C-Sections Are Avoided Unless Absolutely Necessary
In the U.S., 1 in 3 women have a cesarean in childbirth with 32.2% of births overall in America resulting in a c-section. This is an alarmingly high rate, and it’s mostly down to women opting for a c-section themselves to take control of the birth. As we’ve already established in this article, the Amish prefer to let nature take its course with most things. So unsurprisingly, c-section births are extremely rare (as low as 2%, in fact).
The high percentage of c-sections in the rest of the U.S. could tell us that the procedure is being used when it may not be medically necessary. (In some cases, c-sections are decided on at the last minute because it fits a doctor’s schedule better!). Since the Amish live life at a very different pace from ours, traditional births are commonplace as they believe c-sections are an unnecessary intervention. The Amish women that do require a c-section usually have one because the baby’s life is in danger.
1. Amish Women Have 7 Kids On Average
The average American family is made up of 2 (possibly 3) kids, but it might surprise you to know that the typical Amish family is made up of an average of 7 kids and that some families can have upwards of 10 children! Because they reject medical interventions (particularly birth control), those that can have children have lots and lots of them and usually don’t stop until their family starts to resemble a small tribe.
In our eyes, more children may seem like more work, more stress, and sky-high costs, but the Amish view a large family as the opposite. Amish farm work, after all, requires a lot of maintenance and long working hours, so the more hands to the pump, the better and more prosperous they are together. It’s a shame that the Amish don’t believe in surrogacy because their super-powered fertility could really help out a couple in need.
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