Traditional postpartum practices among Thai women
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Background. Culture is often related to notions of well-being, illness, healing and health that inform individuals in their day-to-day activities. The postpartum period is noted for traditional practices related to rest, healing and the consumption of food and drinks, but a contemporary view of these practices is needed. Aim. To gain an understanding of the traditional practices that Thai women follow in relation to postpartum care and the rationales underpinning such practices. Methods. This descriptive study surveyed 500 Thai women living in Ubon Ratchathani, Thailand and attending their first postpartum hospital clinic appointment. A self-completion questionnaire was specially developed and pilot tested, and then administered to women attending the clinic. Data analysis. Descriptive statistics were used in relation to the incidence of particular behaviours. Chi-square analyses were conducted to determine relationships between demographic characteristics and traditional practices. Results. The majority of Thai women adhered to traditional postpartum practices related to the notion of regaining 'heat'. These included 'lying by fire', food restrictions, taking hot baths and consuming hot drinks. Other activities involved not exposing the body to heat loss by keeping covered, not shampooing the hair, avoiding the wind and sexual abstinence. Younger, less educated, primiparous women were more likely to report traditional practices. Mothers and mothers-in-law were most influential in recommending these behaviours. Conclusions. Traditional postpartum practices are still dominant in contemporary Thai culture and are perpetuated by close female family relatives. Health professionals need to be aware of clients' culture and consider the extent to which professional care complements the mothers' traditional beliefs. Nurses need to educate women about the benefits of contemporary postpartum care and to provide strategies to help them to integrate their beliefs and the practices recommended in contemporary health care practice.
Journal of Advanced Nursing