What is Confinement?
A mother’s body will have undergone a significant amount of stress and trauma after nine months of pregnancy and the delivery of the baby. The body is now weak and requires special care to recover from the intensities of childbirth. The next 28 days after childbirth is commonly known as the confinement period.
In Singapore, confinement care practices have been passed down through many generations. The Chinese, Malay and Indian communities all have their respective confinement practices but what is common between them is the careful attention towards the safe and healthy recovery of the mother after childbirth.
It is common belief that the mother is extremely “deficient” from the loss of blood and energy and her body is considered “out of balance”. This is known as entering the “cold stage” and so there is strong emphasis on keeping the body warm and avoiding exposure to “wind” and “cooling” elements where postnatal mothers are urged to avoid contact with cold water and windy environments. This is evident in confinement care practices which focus on revitalizing the body with the “warmth” that has been lost.
After childbirth, the mother’s body undergoes several physical changes. The uterus gradually shrinks back to its pre-pregnancy size whilst the volume of blood returns to normal and the hormone levels in the body changes. During the confinement period, the mother is required to adhere to a strict regime of postnatal diet and a long list of confinement care practices. This is to facilitate the body to heal, help shrink the uterus, invigorate the blood flow, strengthen joints and muscles, and also regain the pre-pregnancy figure.
Confinement Care Practices
One of the small joys of confinement period diet is that the food regiment can be delicious, so enjoy the yummy confinement food! After your confinement period, you probably will not continue eating these “heaty” yet tasty dishes. Of course, you will need to find a great cook or a good specialized catering service that will provide you with a good variety of dishes that adhere to proper confinement care practices.
You can find out more about the essentials of confinement food here.
Some Useful Tips
The Chinese believe that there should be no washing of hair for the entire confinement period. Due to hygiene reasons, this is not a realistic practice. Hence it is advisable not to wash hair for 10 to 12 days but dry shampoo is recommended to minimize scalp irritation and absorb excess oil from the hair.
One common question amongst new mothers – Can I bath during my pregnancy? The Chinese believe that there should be no bathing until the 12th day after delivery and some even do not bath for a month. For obvious hygiene reasons, you should at least do a quick rinse of your body. Since Singapore weather is very hot you can take short quick showers with warm water (no soaking). You can also prepare a pail of warm water infused with herbs or homeopathic remedies and use it to bath or do a wipe down. Always wash your hands and practice good personal hygiene which is essential to protect both you and the baby.
Avoiding exposure to cold elements such as cold water. Low temperatures from an air-conditioner or fan must be avoided too. Dry yourself up quickly after showering or coming into contact with water. Wear caps and sweater if you are cold and stay away from the fridge.
Avoid leaving the house, as exposure to windy environment could allow “wind” to enter her body which could result in rheumatism, backache, arthritis and incontinence later in life.
Lie down as much as possible. Proper rest will help recovery, prevent backaches and is also beneficial to mothers that are breast feeding.
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. It is advisable to find a reputable and certified therapist that do house calls.
Try not to do exercise at least 2 months for normal delivery and as for c-sec, at least 4 months onwards.