Ethnicity Online

Cultural Awareness in Healthcare

Sikhs: Birth, Babies And Motherhood

after the birth

After the birth of her child, a Sikh mother is considered to be weakened and extremely vulnerable to chills, fevers and other ills. Traditionally, she will not leave her house for 40 days after the birth; it is also believed that she ought not to bathe during this time in case she becomes chilled. Where possible, arrange for postnatal appointments to be held at the mother's house rather than at a clinic. The new mother will probably be attended by female members of her extended family, who take over the running of the house for this period, allowing the mother to rest.


Contraception is permissible under certain circumstances. All sexual relations for Sikhs are meant to be confined to the marriage state, and so any discussion of contraception with unmarried Sikhs may cause problems – either embarrassment or even anger from their parents later.

Between married couples, contraception is allowed providing the central reason for sex – the creation of new life – is not forgotten. Sensual indulgence is to be avoided, and contraception for the purpose of 'safe' illicit sexual relations (adultery or pre-marital sex) is not permitted. Lust (kam) is regarded as one of the five major sins in Sikhism.

miscarriage and stillbirth

Do not offer the family a lock of hair from their dead child; even in death, a Sikh must not have their hair cut. Instead, offer to take photographs of the child, or make prints of the feet. Wrap the body in a clean white cloth, and give the body to the parents for burial or cremation.

termination of pregnancy

Termination is taboo for Sikhs. It is permissible to use contraception, but once an embryo has been created, it is alive and so cannot then be deliberately killed. Some westernised Sikhs may consider termination if the mother's life is in danger, but it would be wise to discuss this issue with a granthi and the family before taking any action.

naming ceremony (nam karan)

As soon as the baby and mother are able to travel, the family will go to their gurdwara for a ceremony of celebration for the birth and to officially name their child. The family first pray, and then the Guru Granth Sahib is opened at random. The first letter of the first word on the left-hand page is used as the first letter of the child's name. If the baby is a boy, then he will also be given 'Singh' as a name; if the baby is a girl, 'kaur' will be added to her name. It is important that the medical records are updated with the child's permanent name after this ceremony.

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