"Being confined in your flat is important"

A BBC documentary is shedding light on postnatal confinement exercised by British Chinese mothers.

In the Victoria Derbyshire program for the BBC, a Chinese mother named Ching Ching Turner explains the importance of not leaving the house after giving birth.

“Being confined in your flat is important,” Turner says. The mother had not left her flat in London since giving birth 28 days earlier.

Turner explains the traditional belief is that the immunity of the mother and baby is very low after giving birth. Some mothers don’t even have visitors and don’t shower for a month.

Emphasising her decision to stay at home is based on her ethnicity, Turner says, “for us, if you don’t practise it you’re kind of disadvantaging yourself.”

She reveals that it took a while for her husband to come around to the idea.

Kings College Hospital neurologist Dr Kit Wu said that the tradition is so common in Chinese culture that she did it too.

“Some of the very strict rules are that you shouldn’t drink cold drinks during the month, you shouldn’t really shower, hair washing isn’t allowed and obviously not going outside the boundaries of your house,” she said.

“Some ladies who are very strict don’t actually get out of bed for the first two weeks, and then do very minimal exercise after that.”

However, the doctor is worried about the effect confinement has on those who suffer from postnatal depression.

“New mums can often be left in isolation and it can be difficult to cope,” she says.

Dr Wu is also concerned that confinement may lead to mothers attending to their health and their baby’s health without professional help. “When mothers have medical problems, they try to deal with them themselves and that can be detrimental to the health of themselves and the baby,” she adds.

Isolation and not seeking help is reportedly a severe problem amongst the British Chinese elderly; an issue largely caused by language barriers.

Eddie Chan from London’s Chinese Healthy Living Centre said, “there are a whole generation of first generation migrants now living in the UK and they are very isolated.”

“They will find it very hard to find any mainstream services that cater to their needs,” he adds

Click here to watch the full documentary.