Friday, 15 August 2014

Genie's One Month Confinement


This term has come up quite a few times in my recent videos, and seeing many people seem to be quite interested in the idea, I've decided to do a post about it...

The Chinese believe that after a woman gives birth, she loses a lot of "energy" inside her body, therefore she needs to use one month (the old tradition is actually 40 days) to recover.

Does this sound weird to you? Because that's just the beginning...

The Chinese also believe in something known as "wind" (風), and that during the month following childbirth, her body is the weakest and is most vulnerable to future ailments after childbirth - when she gives birth, her pores and joints "open up", and attracts "wind". Therefore, during that month, she must not shower or wash her hair, as it is said that the contact of cold water will cause the penetration of "wind" into the body, and will lead to severe body aches and future ailment. This concept of "wind" also extends to not leaving the house, no air-conditioning, no fan, no sleeveless tops, etc, but the main idea is that she should not expose her body to any "wind".

During the confinement, the mother will have to follow and endure a series of taboos, traditional rituals, and consume a strict confinement cuisine, which includes a lot of ginger to get rid of the "wind" inside her body.

So, for the past two weeks of my confinement...

Ever since giving birth, I'm not allowed to drink any tap water or any water except for the (hot/warm) rice water drink, as water is said to cause water retention.

The way to make this drink is to pour a lot of (washed but uncooked) rice into a wok, turn on the stove, stir and cook. Place the cooked rice into a big jar for later use. Everyday, take some of that rice, add water, and put on the boil. For the first few days, just the rice water will suffice, but after a few days, you can start adding some dried mandarine peel or some red dates & dried longans into the drink (red dates are used in many Chinese dishes to help replenish the blood).

Ever since giving birth, I'm not allowed to touch any tap water or any water except for (hot) ginger water.

The traditional way to make ginger water is to put a lot of ginger peel (the actual ginger is used to make one of the confinement foods) into a pot, and boil. Nowadays, ginger is not as expensive as the olden days, so we use the actual ginger, as it has a stronger flavour. I use this water to bathe too, but I have only one bucket (apparently it takes 4 pots of water to make 1 bucket) to wait for it to cool down every night before I can pour it over my body! It's really annoying, because when the ginger water gets into my eyes, gosh it really stings!!!

The tradition says that I must not wash my hair in the whole month, but it's quite hard because of how hot and humid it is in Hong Kong. I wash my hair once a week (or as long as I can take it), but I will use ginger water, and I also use a ginger shampoo, and I make sure that my hair is completely dry afterwards.

I went out to see my OB today, and although it was over 30 degrees outside, I still had to wear clothes which would at least cover my elbows and knees! I also wore a cap to avoid the "wind" going into my head!

From the 12th day onwards, I CAN HAVE VISITORS (I think it's so the mother can have enough rest, before having to deal with guests)!!! Apart from that, this is the day when I start eating foods mainly containing GINGER and glutinous rice wine (usually by the 12th day, the lochia would have mostly gone, and we can then replenish the body)!

Confinement cuisine basically consists of ingredients such as old ginger, rice wine, black vinegar etc., which are used in every confinement meal! Chinese herbs, such as "dong gui" (當歸) and ginseng (but I can't take any of it, because it will cause delactation) are also vital to help the body heal. I don't have a choice but to eat the foods that are prepared for me, but I did feel slightly skeptical at first about eating dishes containing rice wine, because the wine would pass into the milk that I breastfeed my baby, but I soon got over that issue, because the wine actually evaporates when being cooked (and it's not like I have a choice of what to eat anyways).

Certain foods are must-haves during the confinement period, and the most common dish is the Pig Trotter in Vinegar with Ginger (豬腳薑醋). My mother-in-law started preparing the black vinegar and ginger when I was 7 months pregnant (we boil it every week to ensure it doesn't spoil), but the ginger-vinegar had been sitting there for months, and that's why it's so nutritious!! After giving birth, she added in the eggs, so by the time I ate the dish, the eggs would be all black inside, and would be super hard to chew, but apparently they contain a lot of calcium!! As for the pig trotter, we add them in everyday, and when the pot has been boiled for a long time, the ginger-vinegar becomes really thick, because all the collagen has dissolved into the sauce. I love this dish, but perhaps, eating it every single day is a bit much haha! It's also a Chinese custom to share this dish with your friends and relatives, though nowadays, people usually buy vouchers and they can redeem the dish at certain shops instead.

The others consist of dishes containing Glutinous Rice Wine of which the ingredients will differ (sometimes they will add chicken or fish), but the "sauce" is the same. In this photo, my mother-in-law cooked it with eggs, pork, and fungi.

I forgot to take a photo today, but my mother-in-law made pig's kidney today with lots of ginger! The other dishes also include pork liver (I can't eat this yet, because it's used for suppressing lactation), pig stomach soup, and many other soups, but all foods that are too "yin" are forbidden during the confinement period. The dishes also have to be consumed while still hot or warm.

Don't be mistaken that every Chinese person will have this tradition, because this is only a popular ritual for the Southern Chinese. Many younger generations don't bother following these anymore, especially if they're not living with their parents or in-laws; however, it has become very popular for families to hire a "Chinese Doula" where she will assist the mother by cooking the confinement dishes and also looking after the baby during the confinement period.

So for me, I am half way through my confinement period, and despite the hormones inside my body that are making me rather emotional these days, I have to try my best not to cry, as it is said that it will make my eyes swollen FOREVER - scary!!!

Okay, so why do people do this? Many women are "fine" after giving birth without these weird rituals. It all comes down to the health of the mother herself. Of course, you're not forced to follow these rules unless you have very strict in-laws, but we have heard stories from those who didn't do their confinement properly, and they now have joint pains and constant headaches. Nonetheless, it is said that if you didn't do your confinement properly the first time, you can still make it up by giving birth again, and doing the second confinement properly!!

The one month confinement is actually for the health of the mother, so although it's tough to follow all the rules, but who wouldn't want better health? You can call it superstitious, but if it has come down to us through so many centuries, there must be a reason behind that.

Hope you guys understand the concept a bit more after reading this post, and if you guys have any questions, feel free to comment below!!

Thank you, and have a nice day!!


  1. Sounds very familiar to when I had my children (I'm Mexican). I had my oldest son on a very, hot July day. I left the hospital covered from head to toe. Heavy scarf for my head, sweater, sweat pants, and thick socks, not to mention that I had binding on my stomach and hips. All this was so I didn't get the dew/humidity and have joint pain later. And the heaviest movement or lifting was only holding the baby because everything else would cause for the uterus to fall out. �� These old traditions!

  2. Wow this is very interesting, and fun to read also, Don't think i could have done stuck to what your going through big commitment is needed and you sound like your doing just great! Just over 10 days left, will you have a celebration after this confinement has been completed? like planned your outfit? or what foods you want to devoured :) x