The aim of Chinese Confinement Care is to nurse the mother’s body back to health.
After childbirth, the mother’s body undergoes several physical changes. The uterus gradually shrinks back to its pre-pregnancy size, the volume of blood returns to normal, the hormone levels in the body changes, and may lead to postnatal blues and hair loss.
The special care is for the body to heal the wounds, shrink the uterus, invigorate the blood, strengthen joints and muscles, and also regain the pre-pregnancy figure. During this period, mothers are required to a strict regime of postnatal diet and confinement care practices.
The Chinese believe that the mother is extremely “deficient” from the loss of blood and energy. Post-natal mothers are to avoid contact with cold water and windy environments. There is a strong emphasis on keeping the body warm and avoiding exposure to “wind” and “cooling” elements. These elements are evident in the ingredients used for the confinement food, and also in confinement care practices.
Despite so, gynecologists and experts does not recommend the well-known custom that new mothers should not shower and wash their hair.
Good hand washing and personal hygiene is essential to protect both the baby and mother. Postnatal bleeding and sweat provides excellent sites for bacteria and infections. Some recommend herbal baths with different types of leaves, and they have the effect of warming the body and improving blood circulation.
Mothers are advised against leaving the house, as her immunity is low. The pores on her skin had opened up and the joints had loosened to prepare for the labor; that’s why air-conditioner and direct fan are also discouraged. Exposure to windy environment would create opportunities for “wind” to enter her body. Consequences are rheumatism, backache, arthritis and incontinence later in life.
A good postnatal massage helps to regulate blood flow, alleviate “wind” and reduce water retention. It also helps strengthens the uterus and allows the womb to go back to its prenatal size and position. Mothers will experience discomfort if their womb is not properly aligned; (e.g. bad stomach cramps).
The choice of whether to abide by the cultural practices is up to the mother. In any case, it should not cause harm or discomfort, and affect the mother psychologically.
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