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Every culture has different rules for pregnant women. While we were traveling through Thailand earlier this year I was about 5 months pregnant, and on more than one occasion we were told that it was okay for me to drink a bit of alcohol, even though I was expecting.
The same opinion holds for some European cultures, but that would never be accepted here in China where rules for pregnancy are extremely strict. Chinese women have a special set of rules to follow.
This list in not exhaustive. It is simply the rules that I can remember hearing, or reading about, over the last 9 months of being pregnant in China.
FOOD and DIET:
– Pregnancy is considered a “hot” condition, so to balance the scale between “hot and cold” or “ying and yang”, so called “cold foods” must be consumed throughout the pregnancy. I was therefore told by another pregnant women NOT to eat lychees because they are a “hot food”.
– Do not drink cold water or eat ice cream.
– Eating food that is not properly cut or mashed will result in the child having a careless disposition.
– Eating chocolate will result in your baby having dark skin (light coloured foods result in the baby having fair skin, which is considered a big positive here).
– Drinking coconut milk will ensure that the baby has good skin.
– Do not eat pineapple as this causes miscarriages.
– Pregnant women are encouraged to eat tons of food so that the fetes gets enough nutrition, BUT, on the other hand, if you eat too much the baby will be too large and labor will be hard.
– Pregnant women should avoid eating cold and raw food.
– Do not eat crab as this causes the womb to be “sticky” and some say it may result in the baby having eleven fingers. Shellfish, in general, will cause there to be a rash on the baby
– Post-partum is considered a “cold” condition due to the blood loss during labor. Hot foods are required to rebuild lost blood. If cold foods are eaten at this time it can result in headache or arthritis in old age. Hot foods would include – hot water, hot tea, ginger, vinegar, pigs feet and high protein meals (although beef should be avoided because it slows healing).
– Mothers-to-be are frequently told to lie down and “have a rest”.
– They should not carry heavy things or do physical work.
– They should keep away from crowds of people so that no one bumps into their stomachs.
– Pregnant women should move as slowly as they can when doing anything.
– During the pregnancy, there is to be no sexual intercourse in order to avoid miscarriage.
– Do not paint your nails, wear make up or dye your hair while pregnant. In fact, mothers-to-be have no right to express their own beauty. They should dress in loose clothing and shoes in order to keep the fetus comfortable. A lot of working mothers wear radiation-proof dresses/ aprons to prevent radiation from computer screens, cell phones and other electronics.
– Do not participate in weddings or funerals. These events affect a pregnant woman’s emotions too much and her emotions will adversely affect the baby.
– Many believe that it is unlucky to throw a baby shower for an unborn baby. In China, the parties come after the little one arrives. The expectant mother buys the child’s entire layette. A month before the baby is due, the maternal grandmother sends a packages of clothing for her expectant daughter. The maternal grandmother waits three days after the baby is born before she visits the newborn bringing all her clothes and baby equipment.
– Don’t move the bed while you are pregnant because this may result in the loss of a fetus.
– Do not raise your hands overhead to hang curtains. This could negatively influence the u baby.
– No hammering beside a pregnant woman as this could leave an ugly scar on the baby’s face.
– Do not watch others while they’re painting walls or your baby will have hideous birthmarks.
– Don’t do needlework or use scissors around the bed as these things could make the baby ugly or give them a cleft lip.
I can’t even recall all the pregnancy comments I have received over the last nine months. The doctors tug at my clothes, saying that they are too tight. My co-workers tend to make the same remarks, and also say that I am dressed to “lightly” even though it is pretty evident that I am sweating profusely. There have been comments about me wearing make-up, nail polish, and high shoes. All of these things are not allowed during pregnancy, so I probably look very negligent. Strangely enough, the other day a Chinese lady was saying something about my flat shoes. I didn’t understand her, but I could tell she didn’t approve. Who knows what could have been wrong with my simple flat shoes?! Perhaps at this stage of pregnancy I shouldn’t be wearing slip-on shoes. I have no idea!
I have been also been asked on a couple of occasions why I have not cut my hair shorter yet. Apparently because my hair is so long, it is stealing nutrients from my unborn child. Most Chinese women cut their hair shorter while they are pregnant. Once I walked into class drinking a carbonated lemon flavoured water, and one of the students said that I shouldn’t be drinking it. I asked why, wondering if she knew something I didn’t, since us foreigners only know what we are told over here. She said that the carbonation was baby for the baby. I asked why again, and she said, “Just because”. That seems to be the answer every time I ask “Why?” (even the doctors don’t have reason).
What others think of my actions while being pregnant has stopped bothering me. Generally I just smile and nod, or simply explain that in the West we don’t believe that. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. I have had the most conflict with doctors who believe that their opinions on these matters are medical fact, but even they don’t bother me much anymore. Overall it has been a pleasant experience being pregnant here because, for the most part, people are very caring and accommodating of those expecting a baby. In a culture where the majority of families are only allowed one baby, under the one-child policy, they really do take extra special care of the pregnant women. Most old people will JUMP out of their seats on the bus so that I can sit down. Most of the time this makes me feel bad since some of them are really old, and I feel that they need the seat more than I do. Even if I resist, they insist on me sitting down!! Younger men don’t seem to be as considerate as older men, and they tend to pretend that they don’t see me even if I’m standing right next to them. However, overall I feel that people have been really kind to me and my bump. I take their comments and advice with a grain of salt because I know that they really do mean well. As for the rules listed in this post – obviously I haven’t followed them, but it has been interesting learning about how differently pregnancy is treated and viewed over here!
I often wonder how different it would be to be pregnant in one of our home countries.
Only time will tell if I ever get an opportunity to experience that.