Navigating through the sea of information on confinement during your first pregnancy can be scary. There’s just so much information out there, both myths and truths. How would you know to distinguish one from another if you’re not even sure what to expect in the first place?
Let’s start all from the beginning.
What is Confinement?
Confinement periods are often the traditional norm for women in South East Asia who have just given birth. The confinement period varies from 28 days to 100 days, depending on the situation and the health of the mom and baby.
The tradition of ‘Confinement month’ has been around for nearly 2000 years. It aims to let the new mother have a good, long rest, giving her body time to recover back to normal so she can get back to her daily routine.
From a sociological point of view, the month of Confinement helps a woman pull through these painful symptoms while strengthening her body in the process.
After giving birth, the new mom will experience all kinds of hormonal imbalances. They may have an effect on both her mental and physical wellbeing. Mentally, she may be exhausted, easily falling into postpartum depression or anxiety. From the physical aspect, she may experience fatigue, back ache, swelling of the breasts, and other symptoms.
We’ve heard of many ‘unspoken rules’ that should be kept during Confinement. Most of them are rather outdated or unsuitable for Malaysian weather, such as the ‘rule’ stating that women who have just given birth should refrain from washing her hair for a month… yuck!
Under normal circumstances, we believe that you can’t even stand going a week without washing your hair – what’s more a woman who has just gone through the most bloody, painful, sticky, and sweaty process of her life.
And there’s another ‘rule’ saying that new moms should eat only collagen-rich and fatty foods like animal fat and sesame oil for her entire confinement period… Did anyone even think about the cholesterol levels of these ‘recommended’ foods and what they do to her health instead?
Photo by Wikimedia Commons
The Need for Confinement
After a woman has given birth, her lower abdomen and waist will feel sore and painful. At this point, she will experience a type of vaginal discharge called ‘lochia’, which is a combination of blood, mucus, and dead uterine tissue. It’s a normal process, so there’s no need for the new mom or dad to panic.
The new mom has to take great care of her body after giving birth, especially of her uterus. The uterus should start to compress after the delivery in order to stop the bleeding. However if the muscles don’t contract properly, then she will be unable to stop bleeding. Once the blood clots in her uterus, it will be even harder for her uterus muscles to contract properly, resulting in even worse bleeding.
Doctors who practise Western medicine will usually massage the mother’s abdomen to help her muscles contract properly. They may also prescribe medication to stop the bleeding. It takes up to 3 days before the doctor can determine if the uterus managed to contract properly.
On the other hand, doctors who practise Chinese medicine will prefer to take the natural and ‘drugless’ way. First, they help the mother discharge lochia, then help her organs recuperate, restore her Qi, and nourish her blood. This is why new moms are recommended to drink nourishing Chinese herbal soups to help with her recovery process.
“It’s not that birth isn’t painful, it’s that women are strong.” – Laura Stavoe Harm
The (Rocky) Path to Recovery
Ideally, a new mom shouldn’t be going through any stress as she is recovering. However, nowadays lots of young, new moms have to worry about their job and return to work after just ~30 days of maternity leave. Whithin this short period of time, she might not have had enough time to recover completely just yet.
That is why there ought to be an easier and sure fire way for her to recover and regain strength within the 4 weeks after her delivery.
Modern problems need modern solutions – enter technology. There are lots of places that offer all kinds of confinement services. They range from hiring an in-house nanny to take care of all the duties and responsibilities at home, to staying at lush, 6-star confinement centres with an army of professional nurses and caretakers to cater to the new mom’s and baby’s every beck and call.
The main point of these centres and services is just to ensure that the new mom has enough time to rest and recuperate from childbirth, gets enough nutrients for her recovering body, builds a strong bond with her new baby, and keeps herself safe from other infections, sequelae, and complications that may arise due to inadequate care during her confinement period.
You might think that being a new mom is tough on your body, but everything will be worth it in the end. Just remember to take great care of yourself and your body as you embrace the wonders of new motherhood.