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    In the past, cultural notions of pregnancy in Korea have  been significantly different in comparison to Western-style health care.  Interviews conducted with Korean women and family, by members of the HCC  NURS 254 class, Group 1, indicate that tradtional notions of prenatal care continue to co-exist with a more
Western-style approachSouth Korea Flag

    The purpose of this webpage is to explore Korean culture, with regard to pregnancy.  We are in no way promoting a Western healthcare model, over more traditional Korean prenatal pregnancy practices or beliefs.  Viewers of this webpage should consider that Korean culture has prospered for several millenia, long before the notions included in contemporary Western healthcare practices were even considered.

    Comments (based on our interviews) are listed below and are not meant in any way as suggestions for prenatal care.  If you think you are pregnant, it's very important to contact your health-care provider and schedule an appointment.  

Mahalo from the HCC  ADN Class of 2009  

Pregnancy Awareness

Woman getting an ultrasoundGeneral malaise and missed menstrual periods appear to be universal indicators of possible pregnancy.  South Korea is an industrialized country and has access to many of the same over-the-counter medicines & preparations that we have access to in the U.S.   One way for a Korean woman to determine whether or not she is pregnant is to self-administer an over-the-counter test.  An ultrasound confirms the pregnancy.

In Korea, doctors are prohibited by law from telling prospective parents the gender of the baby, due to a cultural preference for male babies.

In traditional settings, a pregnant woman's mother-in -law or sister has a dream; also the Chinese doctor can tell if you are pregnant by feeling  your pulse (he can detect an extra heart beat).  Dreams are a very important traditional element of pregnancy.  There will be a dream; a "tae mong" by a sister, mother, or mother-in-law.  The baby's gender is determined by what is seen in the tae mong (see below).

Telling Others About a Pregnancy

    A pregnant woman in Korea, might tell her husband first, when it has been confirmed.  A pregnant woman's  mother might also be the first person to know.  Also;  pregnancy out of wedlock carries cultural stygma (may result in abortion - a doctor might be the first person to know).

Prenatal Care

Pregnant women in Korea often  go to their OB/GYN doctor and are prescribed a regimen of prenatal vitamins.  Traditional prenatal care is given by the woman's mother, or mother-in-law.  The pregnant woman may also go to the Chinese doctor for herbs and other traditional medicine.

Prenatal Determination of Baby's Gender

Dreams - The baby will be a boy, if the
tae mong shows a tiger, dragon, a fruit with a seed in it, or a strong, muscular animal.  If the tae mong shows a bird, snake, ring, or a flower, the baby will be a girl.   The kind of pulse the Chinese doctor feels is also indicative of  the baby's gender.

Cravings - sour foods/fruits indicate the baby will be a girl;  carvings for meat  or sweet foods indicates a boy.

Physiological signs -
If the mother has a pointed stomach and no morning sickness it will be a girl; if the mother has a rounded stomach with morning sickness then it will be a boy.

Presence of Significant Others

    Nowadays in Korea, husbands will go with their wives to appointments, and may  be present during delivery. Traditionally, males were not allowed  in the delivery room, or where the baby was born.  Mothers-in-law also play significant roles throughout the pregnancy and during the delivery.

    Also (traditionally), while mother gives birth, the father is responsible for hanging a special rope made out of some kind of twine to let people know that a child was born, and to stay away from the home. People were not allowed to cross the rope or come to the home (no visitors) for 100 days after the child is born. After that there is a celebration when they will present the baby to everyone else.

Ensuring the Baby's  Health

    Traditionally, pregnant women would not go to the funerals for fear the unborn child might be harmed by an evil spirit or ghost (cause a miscarriage) The pregnant woman should not exercise - there is a fear that the baby may be not safe during exercise. This includes no heavy lifting.   Eating healthy food is important.  It was believed that if the mother was frightened during the day, she would have bad dreams at night.  This would interfer with the mother's ability to get enough rest and/or relax.   Scary movies were also considered to have a negative effect on the mother's ability to rest and/or relax.  A pregnant woman should listen to good music as this was considered to encourage relaxation. In the early
pregnancy, she shouldn’t ride in an airplane, or on a bike, to protect against miscarriage. Buddist Temple

Other Restrictions

    Avoid Korean herbs at the begining of the pregnancy, stay away from strong spices, don't eat ugly food (i.e., irregular shaped fruit, etc...);  Eat seaweed soup 1-2 weeks prior to birth (helps clean blood out).  Traditionally, pregnant Korean women don't work  in the dirt or touch dirty things.  Foods with irregular shape, or surface are thought to cause similar characteristics in the baby (For example, if you eat chicken skin while pregnant, the baby will have bumpy skin when born; if you eat duck the child will have webbed feet).  Eating blemished, or bruised fruit will cause the baby's face to be ugly at birth.
Traditionally, a pregnant woman would  also keep her belly covered, and not wear pants (abdominal  restriction might cause harm to the baby).

Generational  Differences
Pregnant woman
    Traditionally, women who experience complications during pregnancy believe they are somehow at fault, while younger generations believe there are physiological/metabolic causes for problems.  One of the interviewees indicated that her mother and sister experienced "tae mong" dreams in which they saw things that indicated the gender of the baby they carried but she did not have the "tae mong" dreams.  She also said she followed some traditional beliefs during her pregnancy, but not strictly.

Note: Information for this webpage was obtained from a very small sample (we interviewed just a few people).  South Korea is subdivided into many smaller regions, each of which may have their own regional views and beliefs about prenatal care.  

We appreciate your feedback! Please email us your comments.

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Posted November 5, 2008

Photo credits - Pregnant Women (2 separate photos) by John M. Warner.