Chinese women are encouraged to rest, avoid heavy work, and
eat well to stay healthy and have a healthy baby. Having a
son is traditionally more valued than a daughter.
During pregnancy and the postpartum period, a Chinese woman
may be perceived as needing extra attention in terms of food
and rituals. Women are advised not to eat "cold foods"
such as mung beans, bean sprouts, or bananas during the first
trimester to reduce a risk of miscarriage. As they become
more acquainted with the American medical care, they seek
prenatal care, accept prenatal vitamins, and follow up with
clinic visits. Women do not discuss abortion openly but will
seek it when needed. Birth control is practiced, according
Traditionally, men do not play a major role during deliveries;
female family members provide support. This tradition is slowly
changing as extended families may not be readily available,
and nuclear families are becoming more common. Younger couples
are more willing to attend childbirth classes, and fathers
are more willing to stay with women in labor to provide support
and serve as coaches. After giving birth, care is provided
by an elder female relative.
Chinese women want to eat to get energy to go through labor.
Hospitals often discourage eating in active labor –this is
a common complaint for Chinese women. When they ask for a
drink of water, women are offered ice chips instead of the
warm water that they prefer. Most Chinese women will endure
thirst for fear the cold water in ice chips will upset their
hot/cold balance and increase their risk of developing arthritis
in old age.
Resting for approximately one month after delivery is not
unusual. The period of care right after the delivery is known
as the "sitting month." Depending on regional differences,
women may not leave their homes, take a bath, wash their hair,
expose themselves to cold water, cold temperatures and wind,
or ingest ice water or "cold" food (raw vegetables,
salads or fruits). It is believed that women are undergoing
a cold stage right after delivery due to loss of blood. In
order to restore balance, they need to consume foods considered
"hot" (i.e. hot water, soups, ginger, wine and food
high in protein). Hospital meals comprised of “cold” foods
may not be accepted and may be left untouched. Special foods
from home may be brought in. Women who have had episiotomies
may be advised to use ice packs to reduce swelling. This practice
of applying cold is contradictory to traditional Chinese health
beliefs, but women who have been exposed to Western culture
may be more willing to accept this advice.