Pregnancy and Confinement

My older sister gave birth to a beautiful baby girl last year. During her pregnancy and confinement period, my mother and other female relatives cared for my sister by cooking healthy dishes, supporting and praying for her family and imparting their invaluable advice.

I have never been pregnant so I rely on my sister's experience as well as the East Asian practices. In medical term, pregnancy occurs when the mother is carrying a developing embryo or fetus within her body. Pregnancy lasts for about 9 months, measured from the date of the mother's last menstrual period. Confinement is a period when new mother is confined to the home for at least a month after her delivery. During this time, the new mother recovers from the childbirth ordeal and restores her strength and health. Confinement is commonly practiced in East Asian cultures.

East Asians prepare special meals during pregnancy and confinement. The pregnancy diet contains nutrients important for the fetal health such as folate from greens, citrus and beans, and healthy oils from seeds, nuts and oils. The diet is rich with grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. The confinement diet consists of herbs and foods that "warm" the body up such as ginger. It is believed that these foods can boost blood circulation and strengthen joints. Foods that "cool" the body down should be avoided as they can lead to future health problems such as rheumatism, arthritis, headaches and body pains. For mother who is breast feeding, the diet is rich in calcium, iron, fresh fruits and vegetables, and good quality proteins like fish, poultry, red meat, dairy and beans. This diet helps to restore the mother's health and keep the baby growing strong.

In addition to these enriched diets, some new mothers religiously followed strict restrictions (some may argue superstitious) including no washing of hair during the entire confinement period, avoiding cold elements and bathing only with specially prepared warm water that is infused with herbs. I'm not sure how successful these restrictions are. As long as the new mother is recovering and observing good hygiene, I'm fine with it.

A year has passed and my sister has recovered well and her baby is a bouncy bundle of joy! For more information on the recipes she used, visit Anmum's website. I wish every new mother or mother-to-be the very best!

Date: 7/10/10