By Moishe Dovid Lebovits. The time when a couple finds out that a child is on the way is a very happy time. Many different halachos apply to an expecting mother, along with many segulos. These items and many others will be discussed in this issue.
Davening for the Child
The Mishnah in Mesechtas Berochos says one who davens to have a specific gender has davened an invalid tefilla. The Gemorah explains that this is only after forty days from when the child was conceived. The first three days one should daven that the seed should not spoil. From the third day until the fortieth day one should daven for a boy. From forty days until three months one should daven that the child should be of normal shape. From three months to six months that the fetus should survive. From six months to nine months one should daven that the child should come out healthy. The Elya Rabbah says one should daven that the child should be a G-D fearing person and a big ba’al middos. A woman who does not have any children should say the haftora of the first day of Rosh Hashanah after she lights candles on Shabbos.
Informing People of the Pregnancy
Some feel that it is better to refrain from telling people that his wife is expecting because it might cause one to give an ayin hara. The time of when to tell relatives that one is pregnant is up to the husband and wife, and many times it is told very early. Some say the relatives should not find out before she begins to show that she is carrying a baby. However, this does not apply to parents or in-laws. If one is asked if she is expecting and does not want to tell others she may say I do not know.
Discussing the Name
The naming of a child should not bring any type of machlokes into the family because it is a danger to the child. Although according to the basic premise of the law, there is no concern with discussing the name beforehand, nonetheless, the custom is that one should not discuss the name with family members before the name is actually given. Some say the reason is because giving a name is a time when a parent has ruach hakodesh and that is given either at the time of the bris or when one names a girl at krias ha’Torah. There is a discussion in the poskim if one is permitted to write the child’s name on the birth certificate prior to giving the child his /her name.
Some say one is permitted to discuss names with ones parents during the pregnancy.
Finding out the Gender
A woman is permitted to allow doctors to take sonograms throughout her pregnancy. During the procedure the gender of the child becomes known to the doctor. The question arises if one is permitted to ask the doctor the gender. Some poskim are of the opinion that one should not ask the gender of the fetus due to the fact that one loses out on two advantages. One is the excitement and the other is that “beracha is only found on something that is hidden from the eye, ” and therefore if there is problem with the child it will not be able to be changed. However, some have the practice to find out the gender.
One who wishes to find out the gender should consult with their own Rav.
Going to the Doctor with ones Wife
Although one should be careful about the halachos of yichud when using a male doctor, there does not seem to be a reason why a man has to go with his wife to the doctor for every visit. Nonetheless, if ones wife insists then one should not refrain.
Whether or not one may buy items for an unborn child is dependent on ones hergesh. If one feels that by doing so it may cause ayin hara then one should not buy anything. Some poskim permit one (even with concern of ayin hara) to go window shopping during the pregnancy.
Throwing up Food
Many pregnant women experience nauseness throughout their pregnancy and due to it will vomit. The question is if a beracha achrona is required in such a situation. There is a general machlokes if a beracha achrona is said on the enjoyment of the throat or the stomach. When one throws up, ones stomach does not have benefit from the food and no beracha achrona would be required. L’maseh, one who ate food and threw it up within a few minutes is not obligated to make a beracha achrona. If, however, the food remained in the stomach for a while before it was thrown up, a beracha achrona should still be recited. The same would apply to bentching.
It is quoted in the name of Horav Meir M’Parmishlan that if a pregnant woman recites birchos hamapil it is a segula not to miscarry.
What to Do With Nails after Cutting
The Gemorah says that if a pregnant lady steps on nails after being cut she may loose her child that she is carrying. One of the reasons given is, before Adom sinned his body was covered with a layer of nails. After he sinned the nails only remained on top of the fingers. Since a lady caused the sin of the eitz hadas that in turned caused the removal of nails from the body, women are punished because of it. Based on the aforementioned if one burns the nails he is considered a chassid. If the nails are buried he is considered a tzaddik, and if the nails are thrown in a place where they will be stepped on he is a wicked person. Men should also refrain from stepping on nails. Toenails should also not be thrown and they should be dealt with like fingernails. Stepping on nails of a non-Jew should no be done.
Throwing Nails in a Place Where There Are No Women
The Gemorah states that throwing nails in a place where women do not frequent is permitted; for example, in a bais medrash or a men’s mikvah. Others say that al pi kabbalah, since there are other reasons not to walk on nails besides for the danger to a pregnant woman, they should not be thrown in a bais medrash, etc. Although many people are noheg to act in accordance with the second opinion, al pi din one may be lenient.
Flushing Them Down the Toilet
According to some poskim, flushing ones nails down the toilet has the same status as if one burnt his nails. Therefore, one who does this is a called a chassid. Some are careful to burn their nails and not flush them down the toilet. It would seem that placing the nails in the sink, would also be like flushing them down the toilet, if the water is left running for a few minutes.
Sweeping the Area Where the Nails Fell
The Gemorah says if nails fall to the floor, and then are swept to a different area, there is no danger in stepping on those nails. Some are of the opinion that sweeping them into a different room will help to avoid any danger. When women go for a manicure, there are usually nails spread all over the floor. To avoid stepping on the nails, the nails should be swept to a different area in the same room (this is even if the nails are from non-Jews).
It is stated from Harav Elimelech M’Lishintzik zt”l that a woman who eats melava malka every Motzei Shabbos throughout her pregnancy, will merit easy childbirth.
A pregnant or nursing woman who is in pain does not have to fast. In regard to this halacha a pregnant woman is someone who one can tell is carrying a child in her womb. Some say after forty days of pregnancy a woman is considered pregnant for this halacha. Less than this amount of time she is only exempt if she is in a lot of pain. Some say a woman who is capable of nursing does not have to fast for twenty four months even if she does not actually nurse. A woman who is within thirty days of giving birth does not have to fast. These aforementioned halachos do not apply to Tisha B’av and Yom Kippur. Many say that a pregnant woman does not have to fast on Tannis Esther.
On Tisha B’av one is supposed to feel pain over the loss of the Bais Hamikdosh. When one sleeps, the custom is to refrain from certain pleasure on Tisha B’av. Therefore, one who normally sleeps with one pillow during the year should not sleep with any pillows on Tisha B’av. One who normally sleeps with two pillows may sleep with one pillow. A weak or old person does not have to be stringent. Some have the custom to place stones under their head and sleep in that manner. These halachos only apply to someone who is sleeping at night. However, one who sleeps on Tisha B’av by day may use the amount of pillows that he is accustomed to.
A pregnant woman who wants to sleep with a pillow on the night of Tisha B’av may do so.
Visiting a Cemetery / Going to a Levaya
Some poskim feel that a pregnant woman should not go to a cemetery. Others say since this custom is not mentioned in Gemorah or Rishonim a pregnant woman may indeed go to a cemetery. A pregnant woman may attend a cemetery on a yartzeit even according to those who are normally stringent in this matter. Some say that a pregnant woman should avoid going to a levaya if they will enter the funeral home.
Visiting a Zoo
Some poskim are of the opinion that a pregnant woman should avoid going to a zoo. However, others are lenient with this.
There are two minhagim concerning kaparos on behalf of a pregnant woman. Many poskim are of the opinion that the correct procedure is to take a rooster and two hens. Others say one should take one rooster and one hen. The minhag seems to be that one should take one rooster and one hen. A woman who finds out she is pregnant and it is before forty days, does not do a kapara for the fetus. (One should take a chicken and do a kapara for a young child even if he is too young to understand what is going on).
Eating a Pitum – Eating Esrog Jam
Many seforim say that a segula for a woman to have an easy labor is for her to bite off the pitum of the esrog on Hashanah Rabbah. The reason why this is done is because some say that the eitz hadas was an esrog tree. Therefore, by biting the pitum the woman shows that even though Chavah ate from the eitz hadas (i.e. the esrog) she herself had refrained from eating the esrog until after Yom Tov. In this zechus Hashem should accept my tefillas. Some have the custom that a pregnant woman should eat esrog jam on Tu B’shevat as a segula for easy labor.
A pregnant woman should be very careful with the three main mitzvos which were given to her, which are hafrashas challah, niddah, and lighting candles.
Refraining from Harmful things
When a woman is pregnant she should refrain from getting angry. A pregnant woman should not eat any foods which may be harmful to the fetus, such as garlic, radishes and onions.
Eating Good Things
The Gemorah in Kesubos says if a woman eats an esrog she will have good smelling children. If she eats eggs she will have children with big eyes, eating meat will make her children strong, and eating fish will make her children have chein. The Chazzon Ish zt”l would advise pregnant women to eat vitamin E for ailing pains in the feet.
Kevater at a Bris
The accepted practice is that a pregnant woman does not serve as a kevater at a bris because of ayin hara. However, if the woman is not yet “showing” then there are those who permit it.
Walking Down the Aisle
A pregnant woman who is “showing” should not walk down the aisle at a wedding.
Segulos not to miscarry the fetus
Some say if a pregnant woman wants to avoid a miscarriage she should place the mantel or the gartel of the sefer Torah on her and wear it constantly.
The Shulchan Aruch says a woman should wear a tekumah stone or the counterweight of the stone around her neck to protect her from miscarrying. Some women wear a ruby stone today for this purpose. On Shabbos it is permitted to walk outside wearing this stone even in a place that does not have an eiruv.
The Ninth Month
Some say when a pregnant woman enters her ninth month she should daven that the baby should not be born on Shabbos, since in this way she will avoid chilul Shabbos.
Opening the Aaron Kodesh
During the ninth month of pregnancy the husband is honored with opening the aaron kodesh before laining. Some say this should only be done near the end of the ninth month since one does not want the child to be born early.
Going to the Mikvah
In some communities a woman in her ninth month immerses in a mikvah. A doctor should be consulted to ascertain if it is medically permitted. There is no beracha or preparations needed before the tevilah. Others never heard of this custom.
Some have the custom to check the mezuzahs in one’s home during the ninth month of pregnancy, especially in the mother’s bedroom.
The question of whether a woman should induce her labor is a very serious question. Many times one wants to induce labor because it is more convenient to have the child on a specific day. Harav Moshe Feinstein zt”l holds that one may not induce labor unless it is medically necessary. One should consult their Rav regarding this issue.
Husband Present during the Delivery
The opinion of the poskim is that the husband should not attend the actual delivery. However, if the husband will stand behind a curtain and not look at the delivery then if the wife wants, the husband may stay there and recite tefillas.
Segulos during the Delivery
Some place the sefer of rezeil hamalach double wrapped under the woman’s pillow. However, it should not be placed directly under her head.
Tehillim at Night
The Medrash says that Moshe Rabbeinu knew it was day when Hashem taught him Mikra and knew it was night when Hashem taught him Mishnah and Gemorah. Some say we see from here that one should not read mikra at night. Additionally, based on the writings of kabbalah, one should not say mikra at night. One who does read mikra at night did not do any issur. Some say the reason is because learning mikra at night awakens the midah of din. If one read the posukim with a targum this inyun does not apply.
Many poskim say reading tehillim is permitted and is not included in this inyun at all. Others only permit one to recite tehillim after chatzos.
During labor a woman is permitted to say tehillim even if it is at night or on Shabbos since it is a time of danger.
Watching a New Mother (Yoledes)
The Gemorah in Berochos writes that three people need to be watched, and one of them is a woman who just gave birth. This is codified in the poskim as well. The reason for the watching is because of mazikim, and is needed even by day.
When a woman goes out of the house for the first time after childbirth it should be for a devar mitzvah, or a davar sh’bekedusha. Until then, the newborn child is a shomer for the woman.
Some say the woman needs to be watched for four weeks, while others say the shemirah can be for three or seven days (this is before the devar mitzvah or davar sh’bekedusha was done). The custom seems to be if she is in the house and not going in the street she does not need a shomer.
For further details on these halachos and minhagim refer to “The Halachos of Pregnancy and Childbirth” (Yad Leyoledes) written by Rabbi Yisroel Dov Webster Shlita (a special hakaras hatov to Rabbi Yisroel Dov Webster Shlita for reviewing this issue and adding his insights).
This issue concludes Volume 4 of Halachically Speaking.
Rabbi Moishe D. Lebovits, a musmach of Rabbi Yisroel Belsky and Yeshiva Torah Vodaas. Currently he serves as a Rabbinical Administrator for KOF-K Kosher Supervision. Halachically Speaking is a monthly publication seen by tens of thousands around the world. For Halachically Speaking seforim see www.israelbookshoppublications.com For other articles and to subscribe for free see thehalacha.com To contact Rabbi Lebovits, please email [email protected]