Thai Traditions and Beliefs
about
Pregnancy and Childbirth



Thai temple


Note: The contents of this page are for educational purposes only. Please do not use the information provided for self-treatment of any kind. If you are pregnant please seek medical attention from a health care professional for the well-being of yourself and your child.

The information below was obtained from multiple interviews with Thai women and/or men and is consistent with their experiences. It should not be assumed that the traditions and beliefs of these women apply to all Thai people.

Pre-Natal Beliefs Thai women

  • Important nutritional items during pregnancy include ginger tea (to soothe symptoms & to increase milk production), coconut milk (for its nutrients), young coconut meat ( for healthy skin on the fetus), fish (for protein), salty foods and tamarind. In general, for good health women eat a lot of ginger, garlic & onion. During pregnancy, they also eat spicy foods since pregnancy considered a "hot" condition.

  • Pregnant women might make a ginger tea and coco butter salve to rub on their skin to prevent stretch marks.

  • In small rural villages, there is often no pre-natal care; children are born in the home. In certain areas, families go to the temple to pray for the protection & health of the baby.

  • A mother begins "feeling different" and experiencing amenorrhea (lack of monthly bleeding) to know that she is pregnant.

  • Pregnancy is not viewed as an illness. For this reason, home birth is common since it's a normal life occurrence/event.

  • Women play a large role in taking care of other pregnant family members. They ensure the pregnant woman gets proper rest, eats adequately and that she receives help if needed around the house.

  • There is the belief that a baby's gender can be determined in utero based on the baby's activity level. A very active baby indicates that it will be born a male while less activity indicates a female. In addition, if the fundus (top of the uterus) appears to be high in abdomen this would also indicate a male child.

  • Pregnancy is considered a "hot" condition. For this reason, women eat warm foods, drink warm liquids, keep their body temperature warm (covering their bodies with long pants and shirts) and shower in warm water.

  • A woman typically notifies her significant other first of her pregnancy followed by both her mother and the father's mother.


Childbirth BeliefsThai baby foot

  • During home birth, an experienced female family member assists with labor & delivery, providing support and upholding traditions.

  • The fathers are allowed to be present in the room during the birth if desired.

  • Thai women don't feel the need to endure the pain of childbirth silently. Pain medication is available in most modern settings.

  • During labor, women walk and squat to hasten the birthing process and assist with expulsion (this relaxes pelvic muscles, stretches pelvic ligaments, etc.)

  • If there are complications during the birthing process, support people gather leaves & herbs, heat them and wrap them around the woman's abdomen.

  • Most births are vaginal births although the incidence of birth by cesarean birth is increasing with modernization.

  • The placenta is cut up and buried by the father away from where animals may dig it up. .

  • The umbilical cord, in the home-birth setting, is wrapped with wire & cauterized at the end after it's cut.


Postpartum CustomsBaby on Grandma's back

  • Immediately after birth, a woman may go into a specially prepared tent with aromatic steam of  lemon grass & other herbs meant to assist with uterine involution (return to the normal size). The woman dresses in warm clothing.

  • The post partum recovery period is variable. It can last for up to 1-2 months. Often, getting back to work is a priority so this time may be shorter.

  • Food and gifts are brought to home following birth as a way to honor the new baby and the family.

  • A woman's mother or mother-in-law may stay with the family for 3 months to assist with care of the baby & home so the new mother can rest and recover.

  • The names are given to the children by the mother, father or families combined and always have significant meaning.

  • Mothers eat only vegetables & rice for 3-5 months after birth. It is believed that certain smells & ingested foods can cause harm to the mother so meats are avoided. Absolutely no beef or pork is consumed. Fish is an important source of protein.

  • For 3 days after birth, offerings might be made at a temple by family members to ensure the health of the baby. Babies are believed to be very vulnerable for the first 3 days of life.

  • A gold bracelet is placed on the ankle of a baby girl for protection (if not real gold, then it has to be gold color).

  • After the 3rd day of a child's life, the family will visit a monk. Here a woven cotton bracelet is placed on the baby's wrist and a blessing is given by the monk.

  • Baby's should not be exposed to rain. It is believed that they will become ill. If it's raining, an infant stays indoors or is covered well so that they don't get wet.


  Family Beliefs & CustomsThai gold statue

  • There is no ideal number of children. The larger the family the better to help tend the farming way of daily life. Men and women work side by side in this endeavor.

  • Family is the cornerstone of Thai society which gives this culture the high value it places on childbirth and child rearing.

  • In the face of westernization, many families continue to choose traditions that have long been a way of life for people in Thailand. It is this practice that sustains the traditions and beliefs of this culture.



photo credit:
Thai baby on grandmother's back courtesy of www.tribaltextiles.info



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