One piece of advice I’ve seen in several prenatal books is to have something to focus on (besides the pain!) during labour. Pamela England advises creating birth art or finding an image that inspires you with courage, confidence, and the strength you need during labour. As I thought about her advice, I knew where I could turn: to the patron saints of pregnancy.
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For Sunshine’s birth, I had a small photo album of random pictures that didn’t fit into any of my other photo albums. I was actually surprised at how flipping through those pictures, and reliving some of the happy memories, did help me face the pain. For Lily’s birth, I asked St. Brigit of Kildare for intercession. When I was pregnant with Jade, I found St. Gerard medal to wear, and have given similar medals to pregnant friends.
The Catholic Church recognizes several patron saints of pregnancy and childbirth. These saints offer the inspiration of their example, as well as their intercessions* for us here on earth. Here’s a list of my favourite prayer warriors, to whom I turn when I’m pregnant and approaching labour.
Patron Saints of Pregnancy
St. Margaret of Antioch
St. Margaret (also called Marina) of Antioch is the Patron Saint of Pregnant Women and Childbirth. She was beheaded in 306 in Antioch by the Emperor Diocletian for refusing to marry to local prefect. Legend says that while she was in prison, she was swallowed by a dragon, who then spat her up again because of the cross she carried. Little is actually known about her. Her feast day is July 20.
St. Brigit of Kildare (Ireland)
St. Brigit (or Brigid) of Kildare is the Patron Saint of Babies and Midwives. She lived from 451 to 525 in Ireland and knew St. Patrick. As a young woman, she became a nun. Later, she founded a convent and two monastic institutions. Her feast day is February 1.
St. Gerard Majella
St. Gerard Majella is the Patron Saint of Expectant Mothers and Unborn Children. He lived from 1726-1755 in Italy. He served with the Redemptorists as a sacristan, tailor, gardener and porter and also counseled the local communities of religious women. He was known to experience levitation and bilocation. Because of a miracle that happened when one woman in labour asked him to pray for her, many other women asked him to pray for them while they were in labour. His feast day is October 16.
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St. Ursus of Aosta
Saint Ursus of Aosta is the Patron Saint of Childbirth. He lived in Italy in the 6th century. He was a bishop in Aosta and opposed Arianism. Like St. Briget, his feast day is February 1.
St. Raymond Nonnatus
Saint Raymond Nonnatus (also known as Raimundo Nonato) is the Patron Saint of Childbirth, Expectant Mothers, Pregnant Women, Midwives, and Babies. He lived from 1204-1240 in Spain and was a farmer who entered the religious life. He is invoked by women in labour because he was born by C-section after his mother’s death (hence his name, “Nonnatus,” which means “not born.”) His feast day is August 31.
St. Erasmus (also known as St. Elmo) is the Patron Saint of Women in Labour. He was a bishop in Italy. Like St. Margaret, he died in 303 under the persecutions of the Emperor Diocletian. Part of his tortures involved having his intestines pulled out or having hooks embedded in his abdomen, so he is the patron saint of abdominal pains, including childbirth. His feast day is June 2.
St. Gianna Beretta Molla
St. Gianna Beretta Molla was a pediatrician, wife, and mom of four children. When she was pregnant with her fourth baby, she also developed a fibroid tumour on her uterus. She refused an abortion or hysterectomy, and instead told doctors that if they had to choose between her life and her child’s, to save the baby. Surgery to remove her tumour was successful and Gianna carried her baby to term, then died from an infection after birth. She is the patron saint of mothers, physicians and unborn children. Her feast day is April 28.
Blessed Virgin Mary
Jesus’ mother Mary is the most obvious Patron Saint of Childbirth. The story of Jesus’ birth is told in the Gospel of Luke. Mary gave birth to Jesus alone (or with only her husband Joseph to help her) in a stable, and also endured a long journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem while pregnant. She can thus be looked to as a woman who understands difficult pregnancies and labours, and can intercede before God on behalf of women today. She has numerous feast days, most prominently January 1.
St. Anne, Grandmother of Jesus
St. Anne and St. Joachim are known as Mary’s parents, although they aren’t mentioned in the Bible. Church tradition holds that St. Anne was an older woman when Mary was born (like her relative St. Elizabeth). Mary is said to be their only child and was dedicated to God at a young age, much like Samuel in the Old Testament. Her feast day is July 26.
I pray these patron saints of pregnancy and childbirth will bless you during this season of your life! If you know any other patron saints of pregnancy or birth, feel free to mention them in a comment.
Prayer Cards and Posters to Inspire You!
Subscribe to my email newsletter to receive FREE prayer cards for pregnant and expectant mothers! This PDF set includes three prayers to St. Gerard and one prayer to St. Anne (Mary’s mother), in both prayer card / poster format and greeting card format. All the prayers are traditional prayers to patron saints of pregnancy and childbirth, including St. Gerard Majella, St. Raymond Nonnatus, and St. Anne (Mary’s mother).
I’ll continue adding to this set as I find more prayers and learn more about the saints. If a particular saint or prayer has inspired you during your pregnancy or birth, please share your story with me! I love hearing from fellow moms.
To download these free printable prayer cards for pregnancy and birth, just subscribe to my email newsletter. Then you’ll also be the first to find out about new saint posts on the blog or prayers added to the printable.
May these prayers bless you during this time!
*As a Catholic convert, I struggled with the idea of praying to the saints. I’ve since come to view the saints as friends whom I can ask for prayer, the way I’d ask for many of my close friends here on earth to pray for me.
Knowing that some of these saints went through unique circumstances that better able them to understand what I’m going through helps me trust them to pray for me—especially when I feel that I don’t even know what to pray for.
In particular, my first pregnancy helped me draw closer to Mary as I thought about what she went through as a single, pregnant mother (talk about a difficult pregnancy!). St. Brigit of Ireland was a great source of inspiration and encouragement during my second pregnancy.