Spiritual and Religious Aspects of Pregnancy and Birth in Nigeria

Women’s Perspectives

  • Magdalena Ohaja National University of Ireland Galway
  • Jo Murphy-Lawless National University of Ireland Galway
  • Margaret Dunlea Trinity College Dublin
Keywords: spiritual beliefs, religious beliefs, pregnancy and birth, Igbo, Nigeria


Nigeria is both a multi-ethnic and multi-religious society, with plural health systems – unorthodox (traditional and faith-based) and orthodox (formal or modern) healthcare. Religious, spiritual and cultural/traditional beliefs about health and wellbeing remain central in everyday pregnancy and childbirth discourses in many lessincome countries including Nigeria. This qualitative hermeneutic study explored the spiritual and religious aspects of pregnancy and birth from the perspective of Igbo-Nigerian women. A purposive sample of 25 women took part in an individual faceto- face audio-recorded interview. Data were analysed using Gadamerian hermeneutic principles to unpack the meaning of religious and spiritual practices of pregnancy and birthing as articulated by women. The three themes that emerged are: “reliance on the supremacy of God”, “belief in supernatural forces”, and “keeping it secret” with most emphasis on the first theme. Pregnancy and birth are physiological and psychosocial events which have deep-seated spiritual connections. An understanding of the spiritual and religious aspects of women’s need during pregnancy and birthing becomes crucial.

Author Biographies

Magdalena Ohaja, National University of Ireland Galway

Magdalena Ohaja is Lecturer in Midwifery at the National University of Ireland Galway. Her research interests include safety/risk and normality in maternity care, women’s/ maternal health, international midwifery/policies, socio-economic, religious, spiritual, cultural and political determinants of maternal health.

Jo Murphy-Lawless, National University of Ireland Galway

Jo Murphy-Lawless is a sociologist, member of the Elephant Collective, the Birth Practices and Policies Forum, and author of Reading Birth and Death: A History of Obstetric Thinking. Research Fellow, Centre for Health Evaluation, Methodology Research and Evidence Synthesis, National University of Ireland Galway.

Margaret Dunlea, Trinity College Dublin

Margaret Dunlea is Assistant Professor of Midwifery at Trinity College Dublin with links to practice. Research and practice interests include the history of maternity care, ways of advancing meaningful change in the Irish maternity services, rethinking the notion of spirituality, normality and risk in maternity care, and exploring curriculum development that will support autonomous midwifery practice.


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How to Cite
Ohaja, M., Murphy-Lawless, J., & Dunlea, M. (2020). Spiritual and Religious Aspects of Pregnancy and Birth in Nigeria. Health and Social Care Chaplaincy, 7(2), 131-144. https://doi.org/10.1558/hscc.37408