Don’t shower after giving birth – Taiwanese Folk Superstition

1. Text

When asked to share a superstition, the informant responded with the following Taiwanese superstition:

“A woman is not supposed to shower after giving birth, so while they are in the care center for a month after giving birth they do not shower. The belief is that you might catch a cold if you shower after giving birth. Similarly you are not supposed to eat anything that is cold or is categorized as “cold” foods (in Chinese medicine philosophy there are two kinds of foods, “cold” and “hot” foods that influence the body’s temperature).”

2. Context

The informant believes that there is some scientific basis for this superstition so they were not very sure if it counts as a superstition. The informant learned this superstition from her grandma and other elders of older generations. The informant does not follow the superstition as she did bathe after giving birth.

3. Analysis

The superstition collected above from the informant is a folk belief that is related to Taiwanese folk medicine. There are a plethora of superstitions about health, body temperature, and womanhood. For instance, if someone eats what is considered as “hot” foods on a hot summer day they are more likely to get a heat-stroke or nose-bleed. In addition, there is a folk belief that women should not eat or drink cold food or liquids during their period since it would worsen period cramps and be bad for their health. This folk belief is very similar to the one collected from the informant above, as the “coldness” of water is believed to be harmful to the health of a woman who just gave birth. Therefore this folk belief is also a form of contagious magic as through contact with water the coldness is transferred to the person. This superstition may have begun in a time where water was not sterilized which would cause harmful germs to enter the body which is dangerous for mothers who just gave birth as they have a weakened immune system. With the improvements of modern medicine and healthcare however women do not have to worry as much about taking a bath after giving birth since the water and environment are clean and safe. This explains why the informant does not follow the superstition that is suggested by older generations. This result suggests that through technological advances, some folk beliefs are rendered obsolete and not as useful as they used to be.