Bible study: Childbirth in the Bible

Bible studyMaternal Healthcare

Childbirth in the Bible

by Rev Meagan Manas and Helen Gaw

These three Bible studies can be used together or separately. The opening activity can be used before any or all of the discussions.

Opening activity

Introduce yourselves by sharing a ‘birth story’. Nearly every family or group of friends has a story about a remarkable, funny, or difficult birth. Ask participants to share these stories with one another, if they feel comfortable doing so. 

The birth of Jesus

Read Matthew 1:18-25 and discuss:

The Christian tradition has placed much importance on Jesus’ mother’s unmarried status because of the fulfilment of prophecy regarding a virgin conceiving. 

  • If Mary walked into our church, how would we treat her? 
  • If Mary walked into a hospital, how might she be treated?

Read John 1:14 and discuss:

We read that ‘The Word became flesh and dwelt among us’. 

  • How does this affect the way you think about maternal health?

Read Luke 2:1-7 and discuss:

  • How does the story of Mary giving birth to Jesus in a stable, because there was no room in the inn, relate to the story of maternal health in your family and in your community?

Thinking about all the passages of scripture above:

  • What does God teach us about the significance of maternal health through Jesus’ birth?

Names given in sorrow

In the Old Testament we find that sometimes babies were given names which show the difficulty their mothers had in labour. Benjamin, which means ‘son of my right hand’, was given the name by his father. Rachel, his mother, had given him the name Ben-Oni, which means ‘son of my trouble’, before she died (Genesis 35:16-18). Jabez was so called because the name sounded like the Hebrew word for pain – but he turned his pain into a prayer (1 Chronicles 4:9-10).

  • How do the stories of our births affect our lives? 
  • How does God bring healing from difficult births? 

Childbirth is not ritually unclean

In some parts of the world, a woman in labour is considered unclean and the process of childbirth is considered unclean. In Leviticus 12 we read that women who had just given birth in the days of the laws given to Moses were ceremonially unclean, which meant they could not enter into the place of worship. What difference does Jesus make?

He shows us that cleanliness on the inside is the most important thing (Matthew 23:25-28). God showed Peter that he ‘should not call anyone or anything unclean’ (Acts 10:28). 

Do we still think that there is something unclean about a woman’s body, menstruation, labour and childbirth? 

If so, as followers of Jesus we need to change our thinking. Consider that he himself touched and healed a woman who had been bleeding for 12 years (Luke 8:43-48).

  • If we live in a community where women who are in labour or who have just given birth are considered unclean, can we challenge these beliefs? 
  • Can we do anything to make sure that women who are considered unclean by their communities receive the help they need?

The first part of this Bible study has been adapted from a resource written by Rev Meagan Manas for National Council of Churches, USA. You can find more information at www.fistulastories.org.