Sanctification of Pregnancy: Seeing pregnancy as sacred

What is the Sanctification of Pregnancy? What do people say about the sanctity of being pregnant?


  • "I feel this pregnancy was a purpose for my life and God is fulfilling this purpose by creating this miracle that's growing inside of me. The baby is sacred because it's God's purpose and plan.  It's not just what I wanted. We would have been devastated if it didn't happen, but knowing that this is what God wants makes it sacred and special"
  •  “The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and Son. Well, that's like a child proceeding from the husband and wife. So the trinity is a relationship and in some way our relationship as family should model that relationship. The common bond is love that brings it all together" - heterosexual, married parents on their first pregnancy (Mahoney, Pargament, & DeMaris, 2008).

How do we define the Sanctification of Pregnancy for psychological research?

  • We define sanctification as viewing an aspect of life as having divine significance and meaning. 
  • We distinguish two types of the sanctification in our research:
    • Sacred Qualities of Pregnancy (non-theistic sanctification) is defined as viewing one's pregnancy as having sacred qualities associated with divinity, including attributes of transcendence, ultimate value and purpose, and boundlessness.
    • Manifestation of God in Pregnancy (theistic or God-centered sanctification) is defined as viewing one's pregnancy as a manifestation of one's images, beliefs, or experiences of God.
  • See For Researchers for list of published studies on the perceived sanctity of many aspects of life - marriage, cohabiting relationships, sexuality in and out of marriage, parenting, major life strivings, one’s physical body, the environment.

How do we measure the Sanctification of Pregnancy? 

  • For our transition to parenthood study, we created a Sanctification of Pregnancy scale with married men & women pregnant with their first child. Below are the 3 items that our couples most often endorsed for each type of sanctification.
  • Sacred Qualities of Pregnancy - (non-theistic sanctification)
    • Our pregnancy connects my spouse and me to something greater than ourselves - 87% of mothers and 87% of fathers 
    • This pregnancy seems like a miracle to me - 84% of mothers and 75% of fathers
    • At moments, this pregnancy makes me very aware of a creative power beyond us - 83% of mothers and 76% of fathers 
  • Manifestation of God in Pregnancy - (theistic sanctification)
    • God played a role our getting pregnant - 84% of mothers & 78% of fathers
    • Our pregnancy is a reflection of God's will - 81% of mothers & 72% of fathers
    • I sense God's presence in this pregnancy - 79% of mothers & 73% of fathers

Does the Sanctification of Pregnancy help or harm?

  • For both mothers and fathers, greater sanctification of pregnancy is tied to
    • stronger spiritual emotions, like awe & gratitude, about the pregnancy
    • greater reliance on spirituality to cope with the stressors of pregnancy
  • Check back again later for more findings from our transition to parenthood study.

What are new findings on pregnancy from our spirituality and transition to parenthood study?

  • See findings above on the sanctification of pregnancy relationship.
  • To our knowledge, our project is the first study that has directly asked new parents about the sanctity of their pregnancy and parent-infant relationship using survey data. Please check back later for more findings. We are still analyzing our data. 

Additional suggested readings

  • DeMaris, A., Mahoney, A., Pargament, K. I. (2011). Doing the scut work of childcare: Does religiousness encourage greater father involvement? Journal of Marriage and Family, 73, 354 – 368. DOI:10.1111
  • Mahoney, A., Pargament, K. I., & DeMaris, A. (2009). Couples viewing marriage and pregnancy through the lens of the Sacred: A descriptive study. Research in the Social Scientific Study of Religion, 20, 1-45.
  • Mahoney, A., Pargament, K. I., & Hernandez, K. M. (in press). Heaven on earth: Beneficial effects of sanctification for individual and interpersonal well-being. J. Henry (Ed.), Oxford Book of Happiness. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
  • Mahoney, A., Pargament, K. I., Murray-Swank, A. & Murray-Swank, N. (2003). Religion and the sanctification of family relationships. Review of Religious Research, 40, 220-236.
  • Mahoney, A., Pargament, K. I., Jewell, T., Swank, A. B., Scott, E., Emery, E., & Rye, M. (1999). Marriage and the spiritual realm:  The role of proximal and distal religious constructs in marital functioning.  Journal of Family Psychology, 13, 321-338.
    • First systematic empirical study on sanctification

Updated: 03/17/2021 11:15PM