Tso Yueh Tzu in a Taiwanese Maternity Care Centre: New Interpretations of an Old Postnatal Ritual

Monday, 30 July 2012

Yueh-Chen Yeh, RN, BS, MSN
School of Nursing and Midwifery, Griffith University, Gold Coast, Australia
Winsome St. John, RN, PhD
Griffith Health Institute, Population and Social Health Research Program, Griffith University, Griffith University, Australia
Lorraine Venturato, RN, PhD
Research Centre for Clinical and Community Practice Innovation, Griffith University, Nathan, Australia

Learning Objective 1: The learner will be able to be informed culturally appropriate and sensitive postnatal care in a range of care contexts.

Learning Objective 2: The learner will be able to be added knowledge to health professionals offer flexibility in terms of considering individual expectations of postnatal women.


The purpose of this ethnographic study was to explore how the traditional Chinese postnatal practices of Tso Yueh Tzu are being reshaped by first-time mothers in the modern health care setting of a maternity care centre in Taiwan. Tso Yueh Tzu is a traditional 30-day ritual involving physical and social prescriptions and taboos. Traditionally, a post-partum woman engages in this ritual with assistance from her family, especially her mother-in-law. The traditional practices aim to bring the postnatal woman back to her pre-pregnancy state and achieve psychological adaption of the whole family to the new situation. Although traditionally carried out in the home, many modern Taiwanese women now follow Tso Yueh Tzu in maternity care centres.


Data collection techniques included eight months of participant observation in a maternity care centre in Taipei, informal interviews, documentation, field notes, maps and photographs. Formal interviews were conducted with 27 first-time mothers.


Analysis showed that adherence to the traditional practices varied in terms of dietary, hygiene, activity and social restrictions and prescriptions. Locating the ritual in a health care environment had an impact on roles and relationships, particularly relationships with their partners and mothers-in-law. Nurses took on roles traditionally taken by family members. Some traditional Tso Yueh Tzu practices were maintained, based on traditional explanations. However, many practices were modified or challenged, based on explanations from contemporary scientific knowledge. Tso Yueh Tzu in a maternity care centre is a mixture of modern values and traditional beliefs, reshaped by changes to Taiwanese society, current scientific evidence and relocating the ritual from the home to a health care setting.


The findings of this study inform culturally appropriate and sensitive postnatal care and support for women with tradition and contemporary cultural beliefs and attitudes to Tso Yueh Tzu in a range of care contexts.