Postpartum traditions and practices differ across cultures, however the Chinese are the most prevalent among them all. These practices are often deeply rooted in cultural beliefs and have been passed down through generations. Well-meaning parents, relatives and friends will very likely provide you some traditional advice on the don’ts of confinement period. While some traditions have scientific backing, others are based on mythological origins. In this article, we will explore the top 10 Asian postpartum myths in Malaysia and uncover the myths behind them.
1. Confinement Period (坐月子 – zuò yuè zi)
In Chinese culture, the confinement period, or “zuò yuè zi,” (sitting moon) is a customary practice that involves a period of rest and recovery lasting around 30 to 40 days after childbirth. It is believed that during this time, the body needs to replenish the lost energy and blood from childbirth.
The myth of confinement period
The myth behind this tradition suggests that women are more susceptible to evil spirits and negative energies during the postpartum period. By staying indoors and avoiding social interactions, it is believed that they can protect themselves and their newborns from harm.
The scientific truth of confinement period
Resting and allowing the body to recover after childbirth is generally beneficial. Confinement period is beneficial because it allows you to deal with emotional and physical changes, hormonal shifts, and the challenges of looking after a newborn. However, the duration of the confinement period varies and may not have a direct scientific basis. Some individuals might need more time to adjust to these changes and recover, however there are super moms that can straight jump into work right after a few days of rest!
2. Dietary Restrictions (飲食禁忌 – yǐn shí jìn jì)
Chinese postpartum women often follow various dietary restrictions during the confinement period. Commonly avoided foods include cold or raw foods, spicy or greasy foods, and certain vegetables, while herbal soups and broth are encouraged.
The myth of confinement diet
The myth behind these dietary restrictions suggests that consuming cold or raw foods may cause a “cold” imbalance in the body, leading to health issues. Spicy or greasy foods are believed to be difficult to digest and may affect breast milk quality. Certain vegetables such as cucumber, watermelon, green bean, coconut, bitter gourd, and pineapple are avoided due to their “cooling” element and potential to cause bloating or indigestion.
The scientific truth of confinement diet
While it is important to maintain a healthy and balanced diet during the postpartum period, specific dietary restrictions may not have a strong scientific basis. However, avoiding potentially contaminated or allergenic foods can be beneficial. Furthermore, we believe confinement nutrition needs are different for different individuals. Consult with a healthcare professional or a nutritionist for personalized dietary recommendations.
3. Warmth and Sweating (保暖和出汗 – bǎo nuǎn hé chū hàn)
In Chinese postpartum traditions, it is common to emphasize warmth and induce sweating through methods such as wearing warm clothing, using hot blankets, or consuming warm drinks.
The myth of sweating during postpartum care
The myth behind this practice is rooted in the belief that the body needs to expel “wind” and “cold” from the body after childbirth. Keeping warm and inducing sweating is thought to promote blood circulation and remove impurities.
The science of sweating during postpartum care
Maintaining a warm environment can help prevent cold exposure and promote comfort. However, excessive sweating may lead to dehydration and electrolyte imbalances if not properly managed. Balance warmth and sweating with proper hydration and listen to your body’s needs.
4. Avoiding Cold Water (忌用冷水 – jì yòng lěng shuǐ):
Chinese postpartum women often avoid bathing or washing with cold water during the confinement period. Yes, no shower for 30 to 40 days after giving birth.
The myth of exposing to cold water during confinement period
The myth behind this tradition suggests that cold water may cause the muscles and blood vessels to contract, leading to negative effects on the body’s recovery process. Of course, it has to do with “cooling” as well.
The science of exposing to cold water during confinement period
Bathing with warm water is generally recommended for personal hygiene and comfort. However, there is no scientific evidence suggesting that bathing with cold water during the postpartum period has adverse effects. We believed that the myth is due to in ancient times, giving birth is not done in hygienic ways, hence by showering in rivers or non-treated water could expose wounds to bacteria infections.
5. Limited Physical Activity (有限制的身體活動 – yǒu xiàn zhì de shēn tǐ huó dòng)
Postpartum women in Chinese culture are often advised to avoid strenuous physical activities and lifting heavy objects during the confinement period. It is advised that new mothers shouldn’t do anything too strenuous in the first four to six weeks after giving birth.
The myth of engaging in strenuous physical activities after giving birth
The myth behind this restriction is based on the belief that excessive physical activity may lead to health complications and hinder the body’s recovery process.
The science of engaging in strenuous physical activities after giving birth
Following childbirth, the body needs time to heal and regain strength. Avoiding excessive physical activity during the initial postpartum period is generally advised to prevent complications and allow the body to recover. Furthermore, intense physical activities could also causes wounds to reopen, hence it is advised to be more careful. Gradually increase physical activity based on individual comfort levels and consult with healthcare professionals for personalized advice.
6. Herbal Remedies (中草藥 – zhōng cǎo yào)
Chinese postpartum nutrition often involve the use of herbal remedies, such as soups, teas, or herbal baths, with the belief that they can promote healing, recover Qi, increase milk supply, or provide other postpartum benefits.
The myth of consuming herbal remedies for postpartum recovery
The myth behind herbal remedies is based on the belief that specific herbs possess healing properties and can restore balance in the body. These remedies are thought to aid in postpartum recovery and support overall well-being.
The science of consuming herbal remedies for postpartum recovery
Although some herbal remedies may have potential benefits, but it is crucial to consult healthcare professionals as certain herbs may interact with medications or have adverse effects. Scientific research is ongoing in this field, and personalized advice from healthcare providers is essential.
7. Postpartum Massage (坐月子按摩 – zuò yuè zi àn mó)
In Chinese postpartum culture, massage techniques, or Tuina are commonly used to promote relaxation, alleviate muscle tension, and improve blood circulation during the postpartum period. The massages end with a bengkung, or belly wrap, which is knotted tightly to flatten the tummy, which we will discuss in the next section.
The myth of postnatal massage
The myth behind postpartum massage suggests that it helps in realigning the body’s energy pathways, expelling “wind”, promoting healing, and restoring balance. It is believed to relieve “blocked energy” and enhance postpartum recovery.
The science of postnatal massage
Massage can offer relaxation and help relieve muscle tension. It may also improve blood circulation and aid in overall well-being. However, it is important to seek a qualified practitioner or masseuse, and ensure they are aware of any postpartum complications or conditions.
8. Belly Binding (束腹 – shù fù)
The practice of binding the abdomen using cloth or special garments is prevalent in Chinese postpartum culture. It is believed that belly binding provides support, helps in toning the abdominal muscles, and promotes healing after giving birth.
The myth of belly binding
The myth behind belly binding suggests that it helps in realigning the internal organs, provides support to the weakened abdominal muscles, and aids in the recovery of the uterus. It is believed to promote better posture and prevent the abdomen from sagging.
The science of belly binding
There is limited scientific evidence supporting claims of improved healing or muscle toning. On the other hand, we believed it is practiced to maintain a slim figure, as in ancient China, slim is seen as a figure health. Tt is important to use proper techniques and avoid excessive tightness that may impede breathing or circulation.
9. Avoiding Wind Exposure (避風 – bì fēng)
In Chinese postpartum culture, there is a belief that exposure to wind or drafts can be detrimental to the health of postpartum women and their newborns. It is often advised to avoid wind exposure during the confinement period.
The myth of wind exposure during confinement period
The myth behind this restriction suggests that wind can carry “evil energies” or negative elements that may cause postpartum health issues. Protecting against wind exposure is believed to safeguard the health and well-being of the mother and baby.
The science of wind exposure during confinement period
While protecting against extreme temperature variations is important, there is no scientific evidence linking wind exposure specifically to postpartum health problems. It is advisable to maintain a comfortable environment for both the mother and newborn.
10. Emotional Well-being (情緒健康 – qíng xù jiàn kāng):
Chinese postpartum traditions emphasize the importance of maintaining a positive emotional state and avoiding stress during the postpartum period. Hence, crying is forbidden during the confinement period.
The myth of crying and emotional well-being during postnatal period
It may have originated from the belief that the blood loss involved in labour also weakens the eyes, because eye health and blood both are linked to the liver in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). Apart from relating eye to liver, this tradition is also based on the belief that negative emotions or stress can disrupt the body’s energy flow, affect milk production, and hinder the recovery process. Maintaining a positive emotional state is believed to promote overall well-being.
The science of crying and emotional well-being during postnatal period
Emotional well-being plays a crucial role in overall health and recovery. Minimizing stress and providing support for new mothers can have positive effects on their mental and emotional health. Seek emotional support and practice self-care during the postpartum period. And during this time, hormonal changes could make mothers to be more emotional, hence crying is perfectly normal. We don’t advise to suppress your feelings and holding in the tears may lead to more severe consequences like postpartum depression.
Postpartum traditions hold significant cultural value in Chinese society, intertwining mythological beliefs with the postpartum recovery process. While some practices align with scientific evidence, others are rooted in traditional customs. It is important to approach these traditions with a critical mindset, considering individual circumstances and seeking guidance from healthcare professionals. For those seeking a comprehensive postpartum recovery experience that combines scientific methods with Chinese traditions, Golden Moon Postnatal Centre is a professional confinement center in KL, that offers a unique opportunity. Their approach incorporates scientifically proven techniques while embracing Chinese cultural practices, ensuring a peaceful and fulfilling postpartum experience.