Through the ages, various cultures have imparted wisdom and advice concerning pregnancy and birth. Traditions and advice are diverse and often reflect a culture's history, religion and relationship with nature. This is especially true of Chinese culture in which many customs concerning pregnancy are related to ancient Chinese philosophies and spiritual practices.
YinYang is an ancient and enduring philosophy that permeates and informs most aspects of Chinese life. The concept of YinYang relates to the dualistic yet interconnected, symbiotic nature of forces in the universe. Traditionally, the Chinese interpret most things from a YinYang perspective--from treating a common cold to explaining the origin of the universe, YinYang is at work. According to the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine, although pregnancy is thought to reflect both Yin and Yang, Yin energy is dominant, which means that energy is received and stored through rest, peacefulness, openness and rejuvenation.
EthnoMed informs us that it is Chinese custom for pregnant women to avoid strenuous work or activity during the first three months of pregnancy. The Chinese approach to pregnancy dictates that protecting the growing fetus from miscarriage during the first trimester is tantamount. For this reason, sexual activity is also not recommended during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. There is a strong emphasis on maintaining peace of mind and body, both of which are believed to directly impact the fetus.
Traditional Chinese advice for pregnancy includes many ideas on which foods to eat and to avoid. Belief in YinYang greatly influences food choices at all stages of pregnancy and in the month following birth, as the opposing, interdependent life energies shift. Many obstetricians and nurses can attest to the refusal of laboring women to eat or drink anything cold, for example. The Chinese rationale is that cold substances at that time undermine proper balance. Superstitions regarding specific foods abound. For example, EthnoMed reports that women believe that eating shellfish can cause a rash in the baby and that some tropical fruits can cause miscarriage.
Pregnancy advice based on traditional Chinese belief includes the avoidance of many activities believed to hurt the baby and imperil pregnancy. EthnoMed explains that Chinese women customarily refrain from using knives, scissors or sharp objects on their bed, as it is thought to result in cleft lip of the baby. It is also thought wise for pregnant women to not use glue or tape to attach things to the walls near her bed, as doing so is believed to cause birthmarks on the baby's face.