Childbirth Traditions Around the World: China


According to Chinese custom, a husband should carry his bride over a pan of burning coals when entering his home for the first time to ensure she will pass through labor successfully.

Once pregnant, a woman guards her thoughts. It is believed everything she does and sees will influence her unborn child. According to old Chinese tradition, what affects a woman’s mind will also affect her heart and connect with the baby in utero. A pregnant woman reads good poetry — she doesn’t gossip, laugh loudly, sit on a crooked mat, look at clashing colors, or lose her temper. Many Chinese women will read beautiful stories before drifting off to sleep. And, sex is absolutely forbidden during pregnancy.

There are many ancient taboos regarding the food Chinese women eat during pregnancy. It’s believed that if a pregnant woman eats food that’s not properly cut or mashed, her child will have a careless disposition. Or if she eats light colored foods, the baby will be fair-skinned. Many also believe that no construction work should be done in the house of a pregnant women because hammering and sawing could lead to a miscarraige or fetal deformities. Also, pregnant women should never attend funerals and to scare away evil sprits, Chinese women may sleep with knives under their bed. For the same reason, a piece of paper cut to resemble a pair of scissors is sometimes hung from bed curtains and tiger skins are hung over the bed.

Many believe it is unlucky to throw a baby shower for an unborn baby. In China, the parties come after the little one arrives. The expectant mother’s own mother buys the child’s entire layette. A month before the baby is due, the maternal grandmother sends a package of clothing for her expectant daughter called tsue shen, or hastening the delivery. There is a white cloth inside the package with which to wrap the newborn. The maternal grandmother waits three days after the baby arrives before she visits the newborn bringing all her clothes and baby equipment.

Chinese women will often drink a strong herbal potion to ease the strain of labor. Custom dictates that women not fear the laboring process, since birth is considered a women’s career to the ancient Chinese. Chinese women traditionally labor in an armchair or futon. Once the baby is born they will often pray to the goddess who helped them conceive with an offering of sweet meats and incense.