Chinese Culture: Post Natal Care

Post natal (after giving birth) care is a very important part of women’s health especially in Chinese culture. Many other Asian cultures have adapted similar beliefs and practices through the migration and sharing of Chinese medicine so this article aims to explain some of the reasons behind the traditions practiced by many people from the inception of the concepts right through to today.

It is a cultural belief for many that after a woman gives birth she should avoid going outside or doing anything strenuous for an entire month. Though it is commonly stated and practiced, few understand the reason behind this and it stems from Chinese medicine philosophy.

Medically speaking, giving birth is considered a traumatic event as there is damage to the body and a loss of blood. Blood in Chinese medicine has many roles one of which is to nourish the internal organs or more so to carry nourishment taken from the foods we eat. If a person has lost a lot of blood and there is a lack of nourishment occurring and they also happen to continue with regular activity – the body is unable to cope thus women are advised to take a month to properly recover. We are able to see this mechanism in action in the case of post natal depression – there is not enough blood to nourish the internal organs and as such the body is unable to regulate the Qi (this process can be seen as trauma leading to unbalanced chemicals/hormones in the body).

The idea that a post natal mother should not go outside stems from the belief in Chinese medicine that blood also plays a role in the immune system. As there has been blood loss, the remaining blood does not circulate as well and as such the Wei Qi (defensive energy) is unable to circulate properly to rally in defence against an invading pathogen. The best way to avoid having to rally the defences is simply to remain inside – traditionally in the bed room but with modern housing one should be able to move to any room of the house as long as it does not cause too much strain and is warm.

There was also the tradition of not bathing for a month after giving birth and only having the mother/mother in law cleaning the new mother and child with warm water and cloth. This tradition can be bypassed with the advent of modern plumbing and instant access to hot water. The particular idea for this part of post natal care also eludes to the vulnerability of the immune system mentioned above.

Finally we come to the topic of food. It was always advised that a new mother consumed highly nourishing and warming foods such as pig trotter soup (high collagen content), congee and ginger/pepper. The purpose of this was to help build up the blood faster and also to warm the body as much as possible. An entire book could be written on the different foods a mother should eat after giving birth since it varies so much between Asian cultures and region to region.

Thus it can be seen that post natal care is an important part of both a woman’s health but also Asian culture with traditions stemming and evolving across different parts of Asia. It is key to keep the new mum warm and nourished while ensuring she does not strain herself in anyway for at least a month. The theories and reasoning go much deeper of course however the information provided should be enough for the general public; students reading this article should look further into Jing and Tian Gui.

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