Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Preparation for Po Ge Lai: A Filipino-Chinese Confinement PracticeAfter Giving Birth

After giving birth, I will go through a 30 day period of  confinement called "Po Ge Lai".

Po Ge Lai is a Filipino-Chinese post-partum confinement practice that lasts for 30-40 days starting from the day a woman gives birth. In other Chinese-speaking countries, this practice is called Zuo Yue Zi, which literally means "sitting the month".

Chinese medicine teaches that women who have just given birth are susceptible to cold elements after having released a lot of "heat" during delivery. In Filipino, we have our own practices to avoid  "pasma" and "binat".

In Principle...

During the period of confinement, traditionally, the new mother CAN NOT:
1. Wash her hair
2. Take a full bath
3. Eat "Tsin" or cooling fruits like pears, banana, oranges.
    FYI: Not all fruits are "tsin"
4. Eat "Tsin" proteins like prawns, oysters, crabs
5. Go out doors
6. Do Chores
7. Exercise
8. Have sex
9. Avoid air-conditioning, as much as possible
10. Limited visitors

The new mother SHOULD:
1. Rest
2. Eat "Dyet" or Heaty fruits
3. Eat "Dyet" Protein like Lamb, Beef, Duck, Pork and Chicken
4. Drink the herbal tonics prescribed by the Chinese doctor
5. Eat lots of chocolates

The new mom and the baby are said to be in confinement because this is a period of "quarantine" at home. Both of them are tired and both of them have weak immune system, especially in the case of the baby. Therefore, tradition dictates that they should not receive visitors aside from  close family members.  It is only after the 30th day that their Yin and Yang are restored (or in the case of the baby, established) that they can meet friends and other relatives.

I am all for 30 days of rest and 30 days of chocolates! Who can refuse that?! But I am having second thoughts on the 30 days no shower and washing. The very thought of it is horrifies me.

In some families, post partum women are prohibited to wash their private parts with water. They are only permitted to use wipes. My OB told me that I should wash my VAGINA! If I don't, I will be susceptible to infection.

My aunt in HK told me that Po Ge Lai has now been modified to adapt to the modern times. She explained that in the olden days, there were no heaters and clean water.  The bathrooms were located outside the house. In order to prevent the new mom from catching a cold, bathing was prohibited. Herbs were also used as anti-septic because in the olden days there were no sanitized water from the tap.

Nowadays, modern moms in Hong Kong take a full bath after 7-15 days of no shower. However, they use water infused with herbs or ginger in order to give a warming and invigorating effect that will "hopefully" heal the body.  

This is my Modified Ge lai Plan:

1. No Washing of Hair for 15 days. Only Use Dry Shampoo
2. Sponge Bath
3. Full Bath with Ginger Infused Water on the 15th day. Ginger for "dyet"
4. Wash my vagina with water and lactacyd every day
5. Avoid Drinking Cold Water but drink plenty of tepid water for my breast milk supply.
6. Air-conditioned room but will wear gloves and socks.
7. No rooming in with the child. Child will only be brought to my room for feeding.
8. No visitors
9. No going outdoors. Husband will bring child to the doctor for her first visit.
10. Eat the special meal plan and drink all the prescribed herbal tonics.

Lets see how long I can avoid washing my long hair. And best of all, lets see how long I can keep my sanity in confinement.

My husband said.."It'll be hard to love a stinky and agitated wife". So please send him your well wishes.

I will have a series to explain the Po Ge Lai elements when I have gone through each of them and I have  experienced the agony and the benefits. Abangan! I may even create an INSTAGRAM account so that I can post all the Ge Lai meals my mother-in-law will prepare for me. I haven't thought of an IG name...

Wish me luck,



  1. Hi L, Good luck with your ge-lai ! Someone asked about ge-lai in a mommy forum, my advice was to try out the dry shampoo now while you still have the change to wash. My experience kasi was that I hated it - it didn't really remove the oil and just made my scalp flaky and itchy - it would've been way better if I were able to experiment (brands / amount to apply ) and maybe just get used to the feeling way before giving birth.

    As it was, I was tired, taking care of a baby and adjusting to a baby, breastfeeding and pumping, recovering from a c-section and trying not to take pain pills (oo, tiniis ko), and left alone in the home all day and my hair was oily & my scalp was itchy all the time. At some point, I just kept crying. If I remember correctly, hubby shampooed my hair just after the 2 week mark (we used warm water infused with tea and suha peels) and I felt heavenly afterwards. Happy na ako to carry out the rest of the ge-lai.


    1. Thanks for the tip sa dry shampoo! Actually my husband said try ko na raw hindi maligo for 3 days. Dry Run. But I said, konte nalang maliligayang araw ko. Ayaw ko na bawasan.
      I only target 10 days! 15 days max.
      Then I will continue with sponge bath or half bath with "dyet" water.
      Sa food, I will endure.
      Actually I always say, ung mga FIL-CHI dito, we blindly follow traditions (ting hun, ke tseng, ge lai) without understanding it. Parang kung Ano man sinabi sa ancestors natin before they boarded the ship for the Philippines, un na un. The traditions never evolved. Kaya until now, nasa listahan ang arenola even if May banyo na sa room...and tela even if wala ng nagtatahi.
      My aunt explained, iba na raw sa HK, especially now that women have to breastfeed.

    2. So what did you ever do with your arenola ? Flower vase na Lang ? :)

      Kung ayaw mo mag dry run with the no ligo thing, spray mo na Lang dry shampoo and experiment :) para if you prefer something else, may time Ka pa hunanap. Oh, I also saw someone post a picture of "no rinse" shampoo.

    3. Tayo nalang for bazaar bazaar someday.
      Pero like Ung sa tinghun, Ung Iba they give tela. What will you do with that pa. Eh mas mahal pa mag patahi than to buy. Except if gown lahat patahi mo.
      In the olden days, binibigay un sa bride to be then she and her family would sew the tela into dresses and shoes then un na Ung new wardrobe Nya sa new life nya sa barrio ng asawa nya.
      Natatawa nalang ako sa mga taong strict sa tradition but hindi alam why we do it to begin with
      The food though the ge lai, supported by Chinese medicine talaga
      This week practice ko Ung dry and no rinse. Ma post nga.

  2. Ge Lai. Matigas ulo ko, I didn't follow to the T. My mom says we will feel the pain when we're older. It's true! I feel it now. Nyar.

    1. So what did you modify hehehe? The ligo or the food?