No showering or washing hair? No plain water? No air conditioning – even in this weather and temperature? No spicy and oily food? All you hear is ‘no this, no that’, but must you really adhere to all of them?
Confinement practices are preconceived notions that have been passed down from one generation to another for a long time, whether or not their effectiveness is proven. However, that does not mean all of them would not give you the desired results. After all, our grandmothers and their grandmothers had willingly chosen to follow confinement practices for a reason!
One determining factor to know whether you are doing the right thing is by having your doctor approve of what you are doing! There is usually a justification behind them disagreeing with certain practices. On that note, listed below are several medical doctor-approved confinement practices!
1) Do less around the house
The Chinese term for the confinement period literally translates to ‘sitting the month out’, if that does not say enough. While there are simple exercises you can practice after birth, doing less for the household can hasten your healing as well. Not only your body would be weak, but the first month after your delivery is also a critical time for your body to replenish the blood and energy lost during childbirth.
In fact, one of the common conditions faced by many women post birth is having their womb slide down or protrude due to weak pelvic floor muscles to hold the womb in its place. Performing strenuous activities like lifting heavy items after delivery can increase the risk for this to happens and if it has indeed happened, it can slow down the recovery process. Plus, there is also a risk for your surgery scar tissue to tear. Get your partner to do things so you could rest and heal well! If there really isn’t anyone around to help, you can consider getting a confinement nanny. Often, their job scope includes completing light household chores as well, aside from looking after you and your newborn
2) Stay off cold air
BUT not for the reason you might think! The traditional confinement practitioners believe that by doing this, new mothers can hinder diseases in the old age. Unfortunately, there is very little evidence to support that, mainly because it is hard to prove that the headaches a woman experiences in her old age are caused by confinement practices she did not abide by many years before. Still, you should not set the fan or air conditioner at extremely low temperatures or have it blowing directly at you.
Based on TCM theories, a mom will have a weaker body constitution and immune system after childbirth. Thus, being in cold weather can mess with your circulation of ‘qi’ (energy) and blood, causing joint stiffness and muscle aches. Keeping yourself warm by not turning on the fan or air conditioner, staying under your thickest blanket, and wrapping yourself in layers of clothes can be quite a torture, given the Singapore’s humid climate we are very much familiar with. Not to mention, this can cause rashes, flared tempers, and other skin issues. Keep your fan or air conditioner on and set it to around 25°C. Most importantly, just stay in a well-ventilated room with a comfortable temperature – not too cold or too hot.
3) Keep away from spicy food
This can cause constipation, pretty much immediately after eating spicy food. Why, exactly, do we need to prevent constipation? As mentioned before, a protruding womb is a common condition occurring among postnatal moms. You have to be aware not to put a lot of strain on your body or overexert yourself. Constipation will make you put a strain on your body, even more around your pelvic muscles.
Eat food that contains fewer spices and more ingredients with ‘warming properties’ like ginger and onion. Spicy food fans, this does not mean you would be having bland meals all the way! Especially nowadays, there are a lot of other options you could go for like those confinement food caterers that offer both traditional and fusion dishes. A lot of these confinement dishes are designed to be filled with flavors, ensuring you can have good, nutritious meals after birth without compromising the taste. More new, tasty food you look forward to – what’s there to not love, right?
4) Consume herbs
Only if you know them! The consumption of unsuited herbs and a mixture of herbs that can counteract with one another can take a toll on you. Keep in mind to not overdose on herbs. Sure, they can be in your drinks, they can be in your dishes and soups or even added into your bath.
There are herbs that are particularly good for postpartum moms care, like witch hazel and calendula for wound recovery. But too many herbs can leave you dealing with undue side effects – just like how consuming too much of anything will not end well for you. Too much of ginger, for example, can cause dry throat and thirst. Add those to the list of things a breastfeeding mom will not love going through! Know your herbs and learn how you could have them to obtain their health benefits properly. Herbal remedies have worked for many generations, so you might just have to find ones that fulfill suit your needs.
While certain traditions are questionable, some of them are laid down for pretty solid reasons. Do further research so you know which Chinese confinement practices you should or should not follow if you intend to. Plus, one thing that works for others may not work for you so having a professional second opinion is highly recommended. We wish you nothing but the best in your confinement journey!