woman getting her hair shampooed

By Dr Janice TUNG, Associate Consultant and Associate Professor Tan Thiam Chye, Visiting Consultant, Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, KK Women's and Children's Hospital

Common confinement beliefs include going without washing and only eating certain food. Here, we bust some of the most common myths:

It's no secret that childbirth can be quite stressful on the body. That's why confinement is a common practice in Asia, since it allows mothers to properly recover. Asian mothers, especially, are familiar with many practices surrounding confinement and, while some of them have been tried and tested, others are just myths — at least from a medical perspective.

Here are a few confinement-related beliefs you may have heard before, and how they hold up against modern medical knowledge.

Myth 1

a woman consoling another on a park bench

As the saying goes: Mothers experience depression soon after childbirth.

What does science say? It's true that some women may experience depression after childbirth. These symptoms are called baby or postnatal blues, and are caused by hormonal changes. However, it's relatively short-term and most women recover from it with good family support. If the mood persists, talk to your doctor for help.

Related: Dealing With Baby Blues

Myth 2

woman's feet in bubble bath

As the saying goes: Mothers cannot touch water for fear of "wind" entering the body — so no showers!

What does science say? There's no basis for this at all. In fact, bathing regularly is good for personal hygiene and comfort. It also reduces chances of skin or wound infection.

Related: Confinement Practices and Myths: Part 1

Myth 3

sesame seeds and oil

As the saying goes: Mothers have to consume lots of wine, sesame oil and herbs to drive out the "wind".

What does science say? There's no basis for this, either. In moderation there's no harm in consuming any of these. However, when taken in excess, they may affect you and your baby. Alcohol may enter your breast milk, for example, which may then be transferred to your baby. These substances may even affect the liver and worsen jaundice of the newborn if it's already present.

Related: To Drink or Not to Drink?

Myth 4

meat, liver, assorted vegetables and nuts

As the saying goes: Mothers must only eat liver and meat during confinement.

What does science say? Confinement period is the time when your body needs to replenish reserves and recover tissues, which is why lots of nutrition is required. Iron and protein are important, but instead of focusing on these only, it's more important to have a well balanced diet.

Related: Eating right for Breastfeeding

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Read these next

  • Indian Confinement Practices
  • An Eating Guide for Breastfeeding Mothers
  • Baby blues and depression
  • Sources:

    The New Art and Science of Pregnancy and Childbirth 2008, World Scientific

    Healthy Start for your Pregnancy 2012, Health Promotion Board Singapore