and no i will not eat the placenta

Posted on: 24 September 2011

Traditional Chinese medicine has a whole whackload of random beliefs about pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum care.

Okay, maybe “random” is unfair. I can trace most of it to the belief that pregnancy is a “hot” condition, whereas at birth all the “heat” leaves with the baby, so the postpartum period is a “cold” condition. All the superstitions are meant to address that imbalance.

Ultimately everything traces back to the philosophy of yin and yang. I don’t believe in yin and yang, so does that mean I summarily reject all of traditional Chinese medicine?

I would, actually. Except this stuff is deeply engrained, passed down from generation to generation. Every east Asian I know abides by it to some degree or another. My mother-in-law is Taiwanese and quite traditional. She was wary of me eating ice cream during my period, and she’ll probably want me not to leave the house for a month after munchkin is born. My own mother is, I would say, more conservative than traditional, but even she’s dropped some tidbits on me. In past weeks I’ve received all kinds of unsolicited advice, including:

  • “Don’t wear heels.”
  • “Don’t wear flip flops.”
  • “Don’t wear jeans.”
  • “Don’t walk too quickly.”
  • “Careful when you squat or bend over.”
  • “Don’t jump!”
  • “Don’t have sex in the first trimester.”
  • “Don’t have cold drinks.”

I know everyone means well, so I honestly don’t mind too much. Mostly I just do the polite (albeit insincere) smile-and-nod. Besides, once I put on ten or twenty pounds I doubt I’ll want to wear heels!

But haven’t women been giving birth for thousands of years? I find it hard to believe that babies – or pregnant women – are that fragile.

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