Which confinement rules should you follow?

Which confinement rules should you follow?
Posed photo of a pregnant woman.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

Confinement rules are passed down from our grandmothers to our mums and to us, but how valid are they, really? We asked the experts to separate fact from fiction and identify the rules that you ought to obey and which you can afford to break.

3 CONFINEMENT RULES YOU CAN BREAK

1. Don't switch on the fan and air-conditioner. Keep warm at all times.

Break the rule! There's no need to consciously stay warm in sunny Singapore. As long as you are not directly exposed to the wind or cold air, there's no health concern, says Wong Yueh Chin, a traditional Chinese medicine physician at Eu Yan Sang TCM Clinic.

That's because a fan blowing right at you can hamper the body's circulation of qi (energy) and blood, and lead to a host of problems like joint stiffness and muscle aches. According to TCM theories, new mums have weaker body constitutions and immune systems.

Ensure that your home is well-ventilated. If you prefer to be in an air-conditioned room, keep the temperature at 25 deg C or higher. Besides, keeping cool will help prevent heat rash and flared tempers.

2. Avoid plain water; it worsens water retention. You should be drinking only red date and ginger tea.

Break the rule! Although drinking red date and ginger tea can help new mums expel "wind", Yueh Chin adds that having too much of it might cause constipation, especially during the hotter months of May and June.

Enjoy red date tea in moderation, about two to three times per week. Load up on water instead, especially if you're breastfeeding.

Nursing mums are likely to feel more thirsty, so be sure to drink eight to 12 glasses per day, advises Dr Law Wei Seng, a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist, and gynae-laparoscopist at WS Law Women's Clinic and Laparoscopic Surgery Centre.

Don't worry about water retention because in the first few weeks after delivery, your kidneys will produce more urine to remove excess fluid.

3. Forget about taking a shower or washing your hair. You'll be plagued by headaches and rheumatism for the rest of your life.

Break the rule! These days, even TCM experts don't recommend this practice in hot and humid Singapore. "This practice might have made sense in the past, when new mums didn't have the luxury of taking a warm bath, or they lived in an environment which is cold or chilly," explains Yvonne Phua, a chief trainer at Pem Confinement Nanny Agency.

Practising good personal hygiene is important if you're breastfeeding your child. This also reduces your risk of skin and wound infections. Plus, it certainly ensures that your family and visitors will find you more bearable, quips Dr Law.

Take warm showers and towel dry quickly so you don't catch a cold, advises Yvonne. Ensure that your wound, especially if you've had a C-section, is properly dried after bathing, says Dr Law.

To help expel "wind" in your body, Yueh Chin suggests that you bathe in lukewarm water that has been boiled with old ginger.

4 CONFINEMENT RULES YOU SHOULD FOLLOW

1. Leave the housework to someone else. If you don't rest well, it will only lead to all sorts of health problems later.

Take the advice! After what your body has gone through during pregnancy and labour, you should certainly rest well after childbirth. This will allow your womb to return to its normal size (it takes an average of six weeks) and heal any tears, episiotomy or C-section wounds, explains Dr Law Wei Seng, a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist, and gynae-laparoscopist at WS Law Women's Clinic and Laparoscopic Surgery Centre.

TCM believes this also helps to replenish qi in the body and restore health, adds Wong Yueh Chin, a traditional Chinese medicine physician at Eu Yan Sang TCM Clinic.

This doesn't mean you need to lie in bed all the time, warn the experts. This will hamper circulation and increase your risk of blood clots in the legs, says Dr Law.

2. Carrying heavy items will cause your womb will drop.

Take the advice! Surprise, surprise - there's scientific truth to this bizarre-sounding advice! After childbirth, lax ligaments and pelvic floor muscles offer weaker support, so heavy lifting can increase your risk of a prolapsed womb, explains Dr Law. In very serious cases, your womb may even appear visible through the vagina entrance.

You should also refrain from carrying loads in the first two months after a C-section, advises Dr Law. There's a small risk that your surgery scar tissue may tear if you do. Get Hubby to do all the heavy lifting in the meantime.

3. Steer clear of cucumbers and grapefruits.

It's up to you! In TCM, foods are divided into five energy groups: cold, cool, neutral, warm and hot. Cooling ones like gourds (such as cucumber, bitter gourd and melons) and most citrus fruits (pineapple, orange and grapefruit) affect digestion and worsen gastric problems, says Yueh Chin.

In Western medicine, Dr Law says there is no evidence that such foods are detrimental to women's health after childbirth. "Unless my patients believe in and practise TCM, I wouldn't stop them from taking these foods during their confinement period," he says.

If you want to play it safe, it's still possible to have a well-balanced diet after excluding cooling foods from your meals. For instance, Yueh Chin suggests opting for fruits with neutral properties like apples, grapes and cherries.

4. Chilled salads and iced drinks will give you an upset stomach.

It's up to you! Similarly, TCM practitioners believe that taking frozen and chilled foods can harm your stomach and cause digestion problems. They may also hamper your body's ability to get rid of lochia, leading to prolonged discharge, says Yueh Chin.

Again, Dr Law says this practice has no scientific basis, and he wouldn't prohibit his patients from enjoying a cup of ice cream if they feel like it.

Uncertain about what to do? Stick to lukewarm food and drinks. Ensuring that food is well cooked and heated also gets rid of harmful germs that might upset your stomach.


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