How to Maintain Modesty During Labor and Delivery
Giving birth to your baby is a daunting experience, especially for first time mothers.
Muslim moms-to-be face an additional worry – how do I protect my awrah and maintain my modesty throughout labor and delivery?
Talk to any woman who has given birth and most of them will tell you that modesty was the last thing on their mind in the hospital room. The primary focus of the doctors and nurses in your delivery room is on the health and well-being of you and your baby, and rightly so.
But don’t be discouraged.
There are several things you can do during your pregnancy to prepare for maintaining your modesty during this special time.
Select a doctor
- If possible, try to select a female muslim doctor (OBGYN) to meet and consult with throughout your pregnancy and delivery.
- If that is not an option where you live, then the next best option would be a non-muslim female doctor.
- If there are no female OBGYN doctors available in your healthcare network, then select a muslim male doctor.
- If all other options are not available to you, then select a non-muslim male doctor.
Create a birth plan
Writing a birth plan is a simple way for you to communicate your wishes to the medical staff caring for you during your labor and delivery. While you are enduring strong contractions, you may likely lose track of which doctor or nurse is with you and you may not be able to communicate your needs clearly.
In order to make the birth plan effective, make it as clear and concise as possible.
Be realistic in your requests – for instance, asking that the lights be dimmed only makes it more difficult for the medical staff to be able to care for you, and they may end up ignoring your wishes.
Share your document with your OBGYN before your due date and discuss each other’s expectations before hand to minimize disappointment.
Prioritize your modesty by making it front and center of your birthing document in big bold lettering. It’s not supposed to be a pretty thing, but anyone walking into your room should notice it and adhere to your wishes.
State in the document that your request for modesty is a faith-based need.
The Islamic dress code for women is that everything should be covered except for the face and hands in the presence of males that are not immediate family. However, this dress requirement is waived when medically necessary, such as giving birth.
Include that these requests be followed where possible for both vaginal and c-section deliveries.
Consider including post-partum care in your birth plan. Following the birth of your child, the nurses may follow you into the bathroom to assist you. If you feel comfortable with their help that’s perfectly ok, or you can request that your advocate assist you in bathroom matters.
Decide who you want in the delivery room
It is perfectly acceptable in Islam for your husband to be in the labor and delivery room with you. He can be your advocate and speak up for you when you are unable to. He will be able to ensure that your request for modesty is being satisfied by the medical staff and can provide emotional support to you.
Likewise your mother or sister are also permitted to be with you when you are in the state of delivery.
It’s important to understand that once your baby has been delivered, the doctors typically put the baby straight onto your chest to give you skin-to-skin contact with your baby. Once the cord has been cut and the baby measured, weighed and washed, he or she is then returned to you for breastfeeding. A nurse may be assisting you (physically touching) to help you position your baby and your breast correctly for successful feeding.
Whoever you choose to have in the room with you will likely witness all of this.
Your birthing partner can step in and have a scarf or shawl ready to cover you and assist you with maintaining your modesty, while you are focused on bonding with and feeding your newborn.
During childbirth the focus of the mother shifts entirely from those around her to her own body and the concern of her baby. In a hospital setting there are often other medical staff who enter your room without you being aware of it. For instance, if you are delivering at a teaching hospital it is common for some medical students to enter the room while you are giving birth and witness the delivery.
It is perfectly OK for you and/or your advocate to say NO.
This is your special moment.
Mabrook! Congratulations! Mubarak!
The birth of child is a very joyous event.
In the Qur’an, childbirth and labor are recognized as extremely painful and taxing experiences. In the Qur’anic rendering of the story of the Mary mother of Isa (as), it quotes Mary as saying while in the throes of labor,
“Ah! Would that I had died before this! Would that I had been a thing forgotten!”
The physical and emotional pain a mother endures during pregnancy, labor, delivery and postpartum is but one reason why Islam accords such an elevated status to mothers. In this regard, the Qur’an reminds people to, “Respect the womb that bore you.” Additionally, some of the traditions and sayings of the Prophet in this regard include: that one owes to their mothers three times more love and obedience than that owed to one’s father, and that “Paradise lies at the feet (serving the needs) of one’s mother.”
There are really no guidelines around labor, but as per the example set in the story of Mary, it is seen as a time to turn to God for comfort and assistance.