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Chinese Cultural Beliefs

Prenatal, Labor & Delivery and Post Partum

Disclaimer...The information contained in this web page is for informational purposes only and in no way intended to replace medical advice. Please see your health care provider if you are pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant.

The following information is based on interviews with several Chinese women of varying ages who have had children. This page reflects their beliefs and should not be considered true of all Chinese women.


    "Women will do anything to ensure the health of the baby. They believe they shouldn't think bad thoughts and they should rest, and be at peace..." Prenatal care is dependent on where they live, educational level and individual beliefs. Some women  choose to see a doctor, herbalist, acupuncturist, and/or priest for prenatal care. If living in a rural area, prenatal care may not be available.Only at time of delivery would they hire midwives or women with previous experience delivering babies. They may consult fortune tellers due to the belief that a deceased family member may be reincarnated into the baby. They also provide the parents with peace of mind by predicting the baby'sfuture health and prospects.
    Old saying, “You will have a boy if you crave sour food, you willl have a girl if you crave spicy food during pregnancy.” The Chinese believe that whatever they eat during pregnancy will directly affect the mother and her baby.   Pregnancy is considered a "hot" condition, in order to maintain internal balance (yin and yang) "cold" foods are eaten, such as mung beans, bean sprouts, bananas, watermelon. Eating for two becomes a major factor and the husband's family is responsible for feeding the expectant mother. During the first trimester, women consume herbal drinks to safeguard pregnancy, ingest "cold" foods to reduce the risk of miscarriage, and eat ginger to alleviate nausea. In the third trimester, different types of herbs are consumed to rid the body of toxins in the womb and ensure a healthy baby.

Things to avoid during pregnancy: pregnant woman

Labor & Delivery

Labor must be done in silence, screaming or making noise is shameful to the mother. It is thought of as inappropriate and unacceptable for fear of disturbing baby.  Traditionally the fathers role is to provide for the family, however, they do not actively participate in labor and delivery. During delivery laboring women are cared for by other females in the family (mother-in-law, mother, sister, etc).

Post Partum

 It is believed that all the activities during the post partum period will have long term effects on a women’s health.Women are not allowed to bathe, wash hair (to prevent headaches), read (will “hurt” vision), go outside, or consume "cold" foods (will hurt teeth) for one month after delivery. Women avoid sitting up for extended periods of time for fear that it will hurt their back. Complying with these things are believed to help restore internal energy and balance.

The Chinese believe that the post partum period is a time where  women are undergoing a "cold" stage, due to blood loss during delivery. During this time they avoid exposing themselves to cold water, cold air, cold wind, and eating "cold" foods. In order to restore internal energy and replenish blood, the new mom needs to consume foods that are "hot". Some examples of "hot" foods are: hot water, soups , ginger, wine, eggs, pig feet, and foods that are high in protein. If the mother has a cesarean section delivery she should also avoid beef and seafood because it is believed that these foods prolong the healing process. Women also avoid the use of ice packs/compresses for an episiotomy out of fear that it will increase the risk of incontinence, headache, backache, and arthritits in old age.
It is believed the family should avoid having visitors for up to a month to protect the new mom and baby's health. One month after birth, a "Red Egg and Ginger Party" is held to introduce the baby to family and friends. People are forbidden to touch the baby’s head because it is believed to carry the spirit of the baby.


When married in the Chinese culture it is expected that you bear a child. One child is allowed per family, a male is preferred. If a female child is concieved, abortion or adoption is usually chosen. Expecting families visit temples and pray to Buddha to bring a son because they believe son’s are higher status and are more useful to family because the family name remains.




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Posted November 15, 2009