In with the old and new

Updated: 2012-02-29 10:32

By Liu Zhihua (China Daily)

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Zuoyuezi, or postnatal confinement, has a long history, and Chinese believe the quality of zuoyuezi will influence a woman's health.

There are many taboos surrounding zuoyuezi. Baths, showers, teeth brushing and hair washing are banned, cold water and raw food should be avoided, crying is unthinkable, and even reading is considered harmful to the eyes.

In some places, new mothers cannot receive visitors until 12 days after childbirth.

They are expected to rest at home for a whole month, avoiding doing any housework and have special foods made with traditional Chinese medicines (TCM), which are believed to help them recover and lactate.

"TCM considers the first month after delivery to be vitally important to a woman's health, which is right," says Xia Yingli, director of the gynecology and obstetrics department at No 1 Hospital of Tsinghua University, Beijing.

"But adherence to all the ancient guidelines of zuoyuezi will make the practice an anachronism."

For example, the ban on hair washing used to protect women from catching colds, which is not an issue anymore, since air-conditioners and hair dryers are widely used, Xia says.

In fact, for most contemporary new mothers, it is dreadful not to wash their hair or take a shower for a whole month.

Li Chanjuan, a Beijing resident, who gave birth to a boy last summer, complains that she had to wait until the 21st day after childbirth to take a shower.

Her mother had insisted Li should not wash, as it was something that was insisted on by her mother-in-law.

"The old tradition needs to be adjusted," says Qiang Zhe, a 27-year-old new mother in Shanghai.

Qiang and the family spent a lot of time searching online for information about pregnancy, delivery and zuoyuezi.

She concluded that rest, warmth, nutrition, reasonable exercise and a good mood were most important.