Korean Pregnancy & Childbirth Traditions

stork and baby

The information in this website was collected from 3 different interviews of Korean women currently living in Hawaii. 
Contents should not be used in place of professional health care.


Prenatal/Pregnancy

The woman begins pregnancy with a “Tae Mong”, a dream about the conception of the child.  Some believe that if the woman dreams of flowers while she’s pregnant, she’ll have a boy.  If she dreams of fruits while she’s pregnant, she’ll have a girl.  The woman focuses on “Tae Kyo” during pregnancy which directs her to avoid unpleasant thoughts.  This practice is believed to be the education of the fetus and during this time the woman focuses on art and beautiful objects.  During pregnancy women are taught to avoid certain foods and smoking.  Eating seaweed soup (sanmo-miyuk) is emphasized for its iron content and to “clean the blood”.  Traditionally, the sex of the baby is a surprise .


Labor/Delivery 

Doctors, midwives, mother-in-laws and other females in the family and  village aid during labor and delivery.   Introversion is common during pregnancy and staying silent during labor is the cultural norm.    Pain medication is not used;  however, biting on a rag can be used as a method of pain control. Women usually give birth in the supine position much like Western tradition.    Fathers are not usually present during delivery.  However, mothers-in-law are involved in the entire labor and delivery process

Postpartum

After giving birth in Korea, charcoal is hung on a string in front of the house if a girl was born and chili pepper if it was a boy.  Visitors know not to come by for at least 3 weeks.  Balls of silk thread (blues for boys and pink for girls) are given to wish a long life for the baby. Traditionally, giving birth to a son was preferred to ensure the continuation of the family line.  The eldest son inherits the family leadership and wealth; he also has the responsibility of caring for the parents.    Newborns are usually breastfed.  It is thought that massaging babies’ legs will make them grow.  Korean moms carry their babies around in back carriers and many sleep with their children.  Babies are bundled warmly for the first few weeks after birth.  Mothers-in-law play a huge role in the childbirth experience by making decisions regarding diet, care of the newborn, and Mom’s postpartum needs.  It is customary to wear warm clothing and to only take partial baths.  Only hot foods (such as seaweed soup) are to be eaten because the mother’s body is now considered to be cold.  They are also advised not to eat hard or “broken” foods.  New moms are not to go outside and are excused from any work as “the body is made whole again”.

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Posted November 3, 2006