In the last Confinement 101 post, we discussed briefly about what confinement is, and why confinement is considered the most important recovery period for women who have just given birth.
All sorts of instructions and advices start pouring in the moment you announce your pregnancy. They could be from your mom, your mom-in-law, your siblings, or even from the aunty at the pasar malam. Do this; don’t do that. Eat this; don’t eat that. Use this; don’t use that. Aiyo, why so mafan one?
‘It’s for your own good,’ they might say, and they certainly aren’t wrong. It can be an earful, but have you wondered how these Confinement ‘pantang’ (taboos) and prohibitions came about?
The Bane of Confinement Care: Puerperal Fever
Put simply, the restrictions exist because new moms are extremely susceptible to infections, puerperal fevers, and subsequent complications after childbirth.
Some of the ‘pantang’ you may have heard of include not washing the hair for 30 days, wearing a corset all the time, sleeping at a 45° angle every night, not touching cold water for 45 days, and other equally horrifying thoughts.
The purpose for these not-so-scientific but still feasible practices is to make sure that the new mom doesn’t fall sick. If she contracts puerperal fever, it can cause consequences that persist for the rest of her life. Besides, it’s also to ensure that she is able to adequately provide for her newborn baby.
But how does one get puerperal fever? What exactly is puerperal fever in the first place?
Western doctors think that bacterial infections in the uterus lining causes puerperal fevers. It has symptoms of fever, pain in the lower abdomen, chills, headache, loss of appetite, increased heart rate, and foul-smelling vaginal discharge. In particular, the headache could be caused by a spinal epidural or labour analgesia.
Chinese doctors beg to differ, claiming that chills, blood clots, and massive blood loss during delivery are the main culprits. These all cause a lack of Qi and insufficient blood circulation in the brain.
There is a considerable number of consequences and complications that can arise after contracting puerperal fever. Besides the chills, she may also suffer from excessive sweating, joint pain, ‘wind’, blood stagnation, numbness, convulsions, fatigue, weakness, insomnia, and overall discomfort and pain. In some extreme cases, rheumatic and rheumatoid symptoms may even occur.
Prevention of Puerperal Fever
Cultural taboos aside, here are some things new moms should NOT do after childbirth to avoid contracting puerperal fever.
It’s hard for a new mom to control her emotions when her hormones throw her in for a loop. And then there’s the baby’s non-stop crying and her constant physical pain.
On an emotional level, we understand the pain and frustration she’s feeling. However, she should still refrain from crying as much as possible as this can agitate her eyes.
Her blood volume would be significantly lower after giving birth, and she may have slight anaemic symptoms. The problem becomes worse if she keeps crying, as the blood rushing to her eyes will disrupt her blood circulation causing pain or swelling. She might even contract other eye infections with permanent effects.
2. Staying immobile for too long
There’s a saying that moving around during confinement can cause a sagging uterus, so some new moms refrain from walking at all. That is just an old wives’ tale. Instead, new moms should walk around and exercise as much as possible (without overexerting herself) in order to strengthen her body after giving birth.
Her body has to go through a lot of metabolism and functions such as repairing muscle tissues, realigning organ placements, producing more red blood cells, and discharging lochia. In addition to that, she risks losing muscle and bone mass if she stays immobile for a long period of time.
3. Wearing too few items of clothing
Let’s face it – not many of us are willing to put on long sleeves, long sweatpants, and woolly socks to sleep if it’s not in an air-conditioned room, especially in Malaysia’s hot climate. So why are pregnant women encouraged to do so?
The main culprit is ‘wind’, or chills. After a mother has gone through childbirth, her sweat glands and joints are open, loose, and susceptible to ‘wind’. It starts wreaking havoc in her body, causing migraines, abdominal pain, spinal pain, joint inflammation, muscles aches and more.
These symptoms may start happening immediately, or 30 years down the road when her body is even more vulnerable. It’s better to prevent it from happening now than to suffer the consequences later when she is in her fifties or sixties.
4. Coming into contact with anything cold
New moms should not to come into contact with cold water within the first 45 days after giving birth. In fact, she should not consume any cold or ‘chilly’ food within her confinement month to avoid getting the chills and falling sick.
Her Qi and blood circulation need more time to recover, and she should not aggravate her body by introducing cold food or drinks into her diet. Symptoms that occur include pain, muscle and joint aches, and numbness. Besides, she might contract a bad cough and a cold if she’s not careful about this.
Instant Temporary Relief for New Mothers
If you’re currently suffering from puerperal fever or infection, try taking a nice, warm, herbal (sponge) bath to help allievate the pain and discomfort. Make sure that the water is kept at a higher temperature to reduce the risk of getting the chills or ‘wind’.
Our Herbal Baths are made of 100% natural herbs and come in little herbal sachets for your daily convenience. Use them daily to relieve bloating and pain, reduce swelling, improve blood circulation, and warm up the body to maintain your overall health.
However, if symptoms persist, please consult your gynaecologist for professional medical advice.