The aim of 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.
During this period, the mother is required to adhere to a strict regime of postnatal diet and a long list of confinement care practices. 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.
The Chinese believe that the mother is extremely “deficient” from the loss of blood and energy. So there is strong emphasis on keeping the body warm and avoiding exposure to “wind” and “cooling” elements. This is evident in the ingredients used for the confinement food and also in confinement care practices. Postnatal mothers are urged to avoid contact with cold water and windy environments.
Despite so, the well-known custom that new mother should not shower and wash their hair is not recommended by gynecologists and experts. 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.
The mother is advised against leaving the house, as her immunity is low. Air-conditioner and direct fan are also discouraged. The pores on her skin had opened up and the joints had loosened to prepare for the labor. 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. If the womb is not properly aligned, the mother will experience discomfort e.g. bad stomach cramps.
The choice of whether to abide by the traditional cultural practices is up to the mother. In any case, it should not cause harm or discomfort, and affect the mother psychologically.