Author(s): Hue Thai

Date Authored: August 14, 2009

This is a 2 page brochure and related poster about the post-partum practice of a “sitting month” among Vietnamese and Chinese patients. The goal is to increase awareness among practitioners serving post-partum Asian patients so that excellent care is delivered with sensitivity to patients’ values.

Chinese and Vietnamese make up a large proportion of foreign born in the US according to Census Bureau. Yet their healthcare needs have not been fully understood. Following postpartum rituals can be very important for many Chinese and Vietnamese women. It helps to reconnect the new mother to her culture and family heritage, increase her social status, and is believed to prevent many future ailments.

Photo by Anja Disseldorp (cc license)

“Sitting month” is a folklore ritual observed by many postpartum women in Vietnam and China (other Asian countries also observe similar rituals). Differences in local custom, family social structure, degrees of acculturation in the US, and economic status shape these practices and determine how strictly women adhere to them.

According to Oriental medicine theories, it is believed that postpartum women are deficient in Yin and are predisposed to attacks by wind or cold. Thus they are urged to observe 1-3 months’ ritual which consists of dietary restrictions, minimal physical activity, no hair washing, and preventing exposures to cold or wind.

These measures are believed to help women regain their energy and prevent ailments of old age such as poor vision, digestive disorders, uterine prolapse, back pain, headaches, varicose veins, wrinkling of the skin and premature aging. Many of these practices are not ‘harmful’ from the Western perspective and providers may want to acknowledge patients observing their cultural heritage. However, some practices and beliefs conflict with hospital routines (offering birthing mothers ice water or shower post-partum). Some rituals may be harmful and care providers need to be alert and inform their patients.