Ask a Mormon Woman: What are Mormon views on pregnancy, childbirth, and medical intervention?

Feb 15, 2010 by

We recently received this question at our site:

Mormons are not opposed to medical intervention for pregnancy and childbirth“As part our Midwifery studies we are researching the Mormon religion and any effects it may have during pregnancy and child birth. What are the views on pregnancy, and child birth particularly on medical intervention? Also do you have any particular traditions or beliefs?”

Answer: By Brenda**

I am currently pregnant with our fourth child and have had all of my children within private medical care in California. All of my children have been delivered by midwives employed by my health care provider. I found all of my midwives to be expert, caring and attentive. Good luck in your studies!

I’ve divided my response into sections, based on the process of conception to birth. Feel free to ask more questions if I have missed something that you wonder about. Of course, consider this personal perspective and not official doctrine. For official information on these topics, you can search lds.org on relevant topics.

1. Since medical intervention can begin even with the process of conception, let me start there. In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints we believe that the Biblical command to multiply and replenish the earth is still in effect and that the greatest joys in this life and the next will be found in family life This is one reason why Mormons in general tend to be a group that has larger families than average.

Family is so important to Mormons that LDS couples who long for a family may choose to use medical intervention to aid in fertility if they find that they are unable to conceive. (Foster care and adoption are also options for a LDS couples struggling with infertility.)

We also believe that life is precious and that the power to create it is sacred, reserved for marriage between a man and a woman, to enable children to be born to a father and a mother.  We believe in chastity before marriage and fidelity after. Thus, in our doctrine, abortion is not considered an acceptable type of birth control. LDS women may implement various other types of birth control as they prayerfully make decisions with their husbands about the size of their family, but on the average, we often have larger families than many.

You might be interested to read the following links. To learn more about an LDS perspective on Birth Control please read the following link:  “Birth Control” I encourage anyone interested in this topic to read all the associated documents given in this link. Very informative. For more information about LDS doctrines that relate to family life, you can read the following: The Family: A Proclamation to the World

2. During the pregnancy a mother and father may or may not choose to do genetic testing. Since we believe that life is precious, many (if not most) LDS women will choose to continue a pregnancy knowing that a child may have genetic or physical defects to give their baby the opportunity to have a body. We believe that all people are spirit children of our Heavenly Father who need a body to progress spiritually and physically and so just the opportunity to receive a body is of great worth to a new soul coming to the earth. Although this is a painful situation for mother and father to give birth to a child with known defects, they seek to prepare themselves emotionally and spiritually. Many mothers find joy in their children for as long as they live (seconds to years) and the children often find satisfaction in life if they are mentally capable of doing so.

Abortion in pregnancy is only considered an option in extremely rare circumstances when the pregnancy threatens the life of mother, or in cases of rape. Even then, the counsel is to be prayerful and to earnestly seek guidance from God about such difficult situations.

If a child can be benefited by an in-utero surgery, LDS parents would carefully consider whether to do procedures that would aid both mother and child. There is nothing in our doctrine discouraging such intervention.

3. Most LDS women in the United States go through normal physician care throughout their pregnancy. That may vary from country to country since we are a worldwide church and every culture is a little different in that regard (and every country has different levels of care). LDS women who are pregnant are typically quite healthy because of our health code called The Word of Wisdom. It encourages all people to avoid alcohol, drugs and smoking, not only during pregnancy but throughout life. Our health code also encourages healthy eating and regular physical activity.

Despite these good practices, mothers may still have various problems that can arise during pregnancy. Most LDS couples would welcome medical assistance that would keep both mother and child safe.

LDS mothers in the United States typically make their own birth plans. Most choose to have their babies in hospitals but some choose home births. Some will LOVE hospitals that provide epidurals while another mother will think it best to have a completely “natural” (drug-free) birth. There is a lot of room for opinion and choice in this regard, and in all aspects of our church. Choice is paramount; even if an LDS woman makes a choice that is inconsistent with doctrine, that is her right. We all have the freedom of choice.

4. If there are any problems (with mother or child or both) at or after the birth , any and all medical procedures deemed beneficial would be considered and most often taken.

You might be interested to know that doctors, midwives, and nurses who are attending LDS women and children who are very sick may encounter what is known as a Priesthood blessing. In this case two men (often the father/husband and a friend or leader of their congregation) will lay their hands on the head of the afflicted member (mother and/or child) if it is medically possible, often preceded by an anointing with oil. Sometimes premature or ill infants can only be touched gently with a finger or two through an incubator. During the blessing, the words offered (much like a prayer) are whatever the man feels is right to say. These blessings are usually given in conjunction with appropriate medical assistance, not in replacement of such help. If a woman is alone, or if her spouse is not an LDS Church member, she may ask medical staff to contact local clergy members in the area for a blessing like this.

You might also be interested in the following as well:

-The choice whether or not to circumsize a new baby boy is left completely up to the parents.

-The choice whether or not to breastfeed is completely up to the parents.

– The choice whether or not to immunize is up to the parents. (It should be noted, however, that the Church does help with immunization programs in underdeveloped countries, and also requires immunizations for missionary service in such countries.)

– Most LDS parents regularly and freely use pediatric care, particularly in more developed countries.

– We do not believe in infant baptism (children in our church are baptized at age 8). In fact, we believe that all children are born perfect and if they die as children, they are saved through Jesus Christ’s atonement. Of course, the physical loss of a child is tragic; LDS parents will seek solace from friends, family, clergy members like their Bishop [congregation leader], and they may choose to seek professional help to deal with their grief. But the loss of a child during pregnancy or at birth would not trigger a lament by believing LDS parents for the spiritual well-being of the child.

5. Since we are a worldwide church, regional customs may influence other choices at birth, like keeping the placenta and burying it at home. Church members are often encouraged to keep customs that are beneficial to their lives that are in keeping with church doctrine. If all goes well with mother and child, a birth is a very happy event in our culture.

I cannot speak to all of the regional customs of LDS people around the world, but in my family my husband stays with me throughout the birth and for my entire hospital stay. After delivery he holds the baby and takes a bunch of pictures, then he goes out and buys me my favorite type of pie and we eat it together. Our other children will visit us in the hospital with Grandma and Grandpa.

I hope this gives you some insight and information about how members of my religion react to medical intervention during pregnancy and birth as well as LDS customs that affect childbirth. We are very open to medical care and are appreciative to the helpful staff that administer it.

I wish you the best in your studies. Thank you for your desire to serve women and children and their families in this sacred process of helping a child come safely to this world.

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**Please note: The answers in “Ask a Mormon Woman” reflect the thoughts, perspectives, and experiences of individuals. Although here at Mormon Women: Who We Are, we strive to have our content consistent with the Church’s doctrine and teachings, we do not speak officially for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. For official information about or from the Church, please visit www.mormon.org or www.lds.org.

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7 Comments

  1. This was really well done.

  2. Heidi

    This is so thorough and interesting to read. I surely wish my husband and I could have spent my entire hospital stays together. What a wonderful tradition! (The pie thing sounds great, too!)

  3. Michelle

    This was a great post.

    In my family, we have a passionate home birther, and then a mixture of approaches and preferences among the other women. We have some lively conversations sometimes about these things — all the while being grateful that there are choices out there and that we each can figure out what is best for us.

  4. btw… infertility isn’t always a woman’s problem, a number of men are also diagnosed with below average sperm counts (like in my case – it was my husband) that categorise them as infertile but the good thing is we were lucky enough to take care of it and have get pregnant…

  5. Karen

    Thanks for the information. I am a RN nursing student at Gordon State College I am in the OB section of the program, your information about your religion and Child birth is very informative. Thank you for your informative sight it did help me . Karen

  6. Glad it was helpful, Karen! Good luck with your studies and preparation.

  7. Vader

    Good article. I’ll offer a slight correction: Mormon parents are [have been], in fact, urged to vaccinate their children.

    http://www.lds.org/liahona/1978/07/immunize-children-leaders-urge?lang=eng

    However, this is not something leaders “check up” on or otherwise try to enforce; it is ultimately left up to the parents.

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