Childbirth in Early Imperial China

in NAN NÜ
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Abstract

By the eighth century, medical texts had come to agree that an expecting mother should take herbal medicine in the last month of pregnancy to ensure a quick and safe delivery. Delivery charts, previously separated for different purposes, were integrated into one chart with twelve sub-charts for each month of the year. Women usually took vertical positions during delivery and were most likely supported under the arms by midwives. Ritual techniques and manual manipulations were applied to solve complications such as breech birth. The former often implied resonant relations between the baby, its mother and her husband, while the latter sometimes elicited criticism from male doctors as unnecessary interventions. The new mother would be restrained from social contact in the first month after delivery, because of both her need to rest and the fear of pollution. Friends and relatives, however, would bring over precious and nutritious food to "nourish her body," said the medical texts, "not just to celebrate the child."

NAN NÜ

Men, Women and Gender in China

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