Dhaka, Bangladesh
Why mothers won’t go out after giving birth

Off the track

Why mothers won’t go out after giving birth

Amber Haque

“Postnatal confinement” - where new mothers do not leave the house, have visitors or shower for a month after giving birth - is said to be widespread among the UK’s Chinese community. Experts warn that few in the medical profession know this occurs. “Being confined in your flat is important,” says Ching Ching Turner, from her home in London that she has not left since giving birth 28 days earlier. She speaks to the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme via video call, as visitors are not allowed. Mrs Turner argues confinement is an important process as traditional belief is that the mother and baby’s immunity is very low. She is of Chinese ethnicity, and says: “For us, if you don’t practise it you’re kind of disadvantaging yourself.” Confinement is common across Asia and in China there are special hospitals where mothers stay confined for a month, sometimes only seeing their babies once a day. It is carried out because traditional Chinese medicine purports that women who have just given birth are more susceptible to cold air, and becoming ill as a result. Mrs Turner, who believes she has “done confinement in a modern way” by still showering for example, says her wishes came as a surprise to her husband, who was born in the UK. “I don’t think he realised that [confinement] came with a whole set of rules,” she says. “It was a bit difficult for him as he wanted to show off his baby. “But now we’ve nearly completed the month, he sees the benefits.” Dr Kit Wu, a neurologist at King’s College Hospital, says postnatal confinement is a tradition so engrained in Chinese culture “that even I did it”. “Some of the very strict rules are that you shouldn’t drink cold drinks during the month, you shouldn’t really shower, hair washing isn’t allowed and obviously not going outside the boundaries of your house. “Some ladies who are very strict don’t actually get out of bed for the first two weeks, and then do very minimal exercise after that,” she adds. Dr Wu is particularly concerned about the effect confinement has on British Chinese mothers who experience postnatal depression. “New mums can often be left in isolation and it can be difficult to cope,” she explains, adding that many will also hide the symptoms from health professionals because of the pressure within Chinese communities for giving birth to be seen as a time of happiness.

Share |