Traditional postpartum practices and rituals: a qualitative systematic review

Womens Health (Lond). 2007 Jul;3(4):487-502. doi: 10.2217/17455057.3.4.487.


Many cultures around the world observe specific postpartum rituals to avoid ill health in later years. This qualitative systematic review examined the literature describing traditional postpartum practices from 51 studies in over 20 different countries. Commonalities were identified in practices across cultures. Specifically, the themes included organized support for the mother, periods of rest, prescribed food to be eaten or prohibited, hygiene practices and those related to infant care and breastfeeding, among others. These rituals allow the mother to be 'mothered' for a period of time after the birth. They may have beneficial health effects as well as facilitate the transition to motherhood. In today's society, with modernization, migration and globalization, individuals may be unable to carry out the rituals or, conversely, feel pressured to carry out activities in which they no longer believe. The understanding of traditional postpartum practices can inform the provision of culturally competent perinatal services.