asian woman kissing her baby

Confinement is a period for your body to recuperate and recover from childbirth. You have probably heard some confinement practices yourself, and you may or may not agree with them all.

In fact, some of them don't have any scientific basis at all! So, let's bust some common confinement myths.

Related: Baby's Here: What to Expect Now

The Myths

1. "Now that my baby is born, I will lapse into depression."

Some women experience a sad or depressed mood some days after giving birth — this "baby blues" or "postnatal blues" is short-term and linked to hormonal changes after pregnancy, and usually lasts only two weeks.

Depression is diagnosed only when these symptoms persist; it may be accompanied by suicidal or infanticide intent. Do seek professional help if you have concerns.

2. "I am not allowed to bathe or touch water for fear of 'wind' entering the body."

A related myth is: "I can only wash my hair with water in which ginger has been boiled in it."

There is no basis to these beliefs at all. Bathing helps you maintain personal hygiene and stay comfortable — plus it reduces the incidence of skin and wound infections.

And you’ll feel and smell fresh after a bath.

3. "I must consume plenty of wines, sesame oils and traditional herbs to drive out the 'wind'."

There is no medical basis here either. In moderation, there is no harm in consuming these substances. But when taken in excess, they may affect you and your baby.

Herbs may contain substances that we are not fully aware of, while alcohol might go into your breast milk and be transferred to your baby, affecting the liver or worsening jaundice (if present).

4. "I cannot drink plain water at all during confinement."

New mothers should drink enough fluids, especially if they’re breastfeeding.

Don’t worry if you find yourself frequently visiting the toilet: your kidneys produce more urine a few weeks after the baby is born to remove excess fluid accumulated during pregnancy.

5. "I must not expose myself and the baby to any wind drafts or air-conditioner."

A similar myth: "I must not leave my house for one month." For you and your baby’s comfort, there is no harm in using the air-conditioner or fan at home. It may even help prevent heat rash.

6. "I must eat liver and meats only."

Your nutritional needs are high after giving birth as your body is making up for the recent blood loss during delivery and the demands of breastfeeding.

Whatever your confinement beliefs are, it’s important to take a well-balanced diet than specific food types (e.g. liver) to replenish the body’s stores, especially if breastfeeding.

Vegetarians or vegans can also take iron or vitamin supplements to satisfy these nutritional demands.

For more confinement myths, check out part 2 of this two-part series on confinement myths:

Read about confinement practices from other cultures:

Acknowledgment

Source: Dr TAN Thiam Chye, Dr TAN Kim Teng, Dr TAN Heng Hao, Dr TEE Chee Seng John, The New Art and Science of Pregnancy and Childbirth, World Scientific 2008.