The Ultimate Rule Guide for Pregnancy in China

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Every culture has different rules for pregnant women. While we were traveling through Thailand earlier this year I was about 5 months pregnant, and on more than one occasion we were told that it was okay for me to drink a bit of alcohol, even though I was expecting.
The same opinion holds for some European cultures, but that would never be accepted here in China where rules for pregnancy are extremely strict. Chinese women have a special set of rules to follow.

This list in not exhaustive. It is simply the rules that I can remember hearing, or reading about, over the last 9 months of being pregnant in China.

Food and Diet

  • Pregnancy is considered a “hot” condition, so to balance the scale between “hot and cold” or “ying and yang”, so called “cold foods” must be consumed throughout the pregnancy. I was therefore told by another pregnant women NOT to eat lychees because they are a “hot food”.
  • Do not drink cold water or eat ice cream.
  • Eating food that is not properly cut or mashed will result in the child having a careless disposition.
  • Eating chocolate will result in your baby having dark skin (light coloured foods result in the baby having fair skin, which is considered a big positive here).
  • Drinking coconut milk will ensure that the baby has good skin.
  • Do not eat pineapple as this causes miscarriages.
  • Pregnant women are encouraged to eat tons of food so that the fetes gets enough nutrition, BUT, on the other hand, if you eat too much the baby will be too large and labor will be hard.
  • Pregnant women should avoid eating cold and raw food.
  • Do not eat crab as this causes the womb to be “sticky” and some say it may result in the baby having eleven fingers. Shellfish, in general, will cause there to be a rash on the baby
  • Post-partum is considered a “cold” condition due to the blood loss during labor. Hot foods are required to rebuild lost blood. If cold foods are eaten at this time it can result in headache or arthritis in old age. Hot foods would include – hot water, hot tea, ginger, vinegar, pigs feet and high protein meals (although beef should be avoided because it slows healing).


  • Do not rub a pregnant women’s belly too much – this will cause the child to be spoiled/fussy.
  • Mothers-to-be are frequently told to lie down and “have a rest”.
  • They should not carry heavy things or do physical work.
  • They should keep away from crowds of people so that no one bumps into their stomachs.
  • Pregnant women should move as slowly as they can when doing anything.
  • During the pregnancy, there is to be no sexual intercourse in order to avoid miscarriage.
  • Do not paint your nails, wear make up or dye your hair while pregnant. In fact, mothers-to-be have no right to express their own beauty. They should dress in loose clothing and shoes in order to keep the fetus comfortable. A lot of working mothers wear radiation-proof dresses/ aprons to prevent radiation from computer screens, cell phones and other electronics.
  • Do not participate in weddings or funerals. These events affect a pregnant woman’s emotions too much and her emotions will adversely affect the baby.
  • Many believe that it is unlucky to throw a baby shower for an unborn baby. In China, the parties come after the little one arrives. The expectant mother buys the child’s entire layette. A month before the baby is due, the maternal grandmother sends a packages of clothing for her expectant daughter. The maternal grandmother waits three days after the baby is born before she visits the newborn bringing all her clothes and baby equipment.

At Home

  • Don’t clear blocked drains. Clearing a drain symbolises removing the baby from the uterus.
  • Don’t move the bed while you are pregnant because this may result in the loss of a fetus.
  • Do not raise your hands overhead to hang curtains. This could negatively influence the u baby.
  • No hammering beside a pregnant woman as this could leave an ugly scar on the baby’s face.
  • Do not watch others while they’re painting walls or your baby will have hideous birthmarks.
  • Don’t do needlework or use scissors around the bed as these things could make the baby ugly or give them a cleft lip.

I can’t even recall all the pregnancy comments I have received over the last nine months. The doctors tug at my clothes, saying that they are too tight. My co-workers tend to make the same remarks, and also say that I am dressed to “lightly” even though it is pretty evident that I am sweating profusely. There have been comments about me wearing make-up, nail polish, and high shoes. All of these things are not allowed during pregnancy, so I probably look very negligent. Strangely enough, the other day a Chinese lady was saying something about my flat shoes. I didn’t understand her, but I could tell she didn’t approve. Who knows what could have been wrong with my simple flat shoes?! Perhaps at this stage of pregnancy I shouldn’t be wearing slip-on shoes. I have no idea!

I have been also been asked on a couple of occasions why I have not cut my hair shorter yet. Apparently because my hair is so long, it is stealing nutrients from my unborn child. Most Chinese women cut their hair shorter while they are pregnant. Once I walked into class drinking a carbonated lemon flavoured water, and one of the students said that I shouldn’t be drinking it. I asked why, wondering if she knew something I didn’t, since us foreigners only know what we are told over here. She said that the carbonation was baby for the baby. I asked why again, and she said, “Just because”. That seems to be the answer every time I ask “Why?” (even the doctors don’t have reason).

What others think of my actions while being pregnant has stopped bothering me. Generally I just smile and nod, or simply explain that in the West we don’t believe that. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. I have had the most conflict with doctors who believe that their opinions on these matters are medical fact, but even they don’t bother me much anymore. Overall it has been a pleasant experience being pregnant here because, for the most part, people are very caring and accommodating of those expecting a baby. In a culture where the majority of families are only allowed one baby, under the one-child policy, they really do take extra special care of the pregnant women. Most old people will JUMP out of their seats on the bus so that I can sit down. Most of the time this makes me feel bad since some of them are really old, and I feel that they need the seat more than I do. Even if I resist, they insist on me sitting down!! Younger men don’t seem to be as considerate as older men, and they tend to pretend that they don’t see me even if I’m standing right next to them. However, overall I feel that people have been really kind to me and my bump. I take their comments and advice with a grain of salt because I know that they really do mean well. As for the rules listed in this post – obviously I haven’t followed them, but it has been interesting learning about how differently pregnancy is treated and viewed over here!

I often wonder how different it would be to be pregnant in one of our home countries.
Only time will tell if I ever get an opportunity to experience that.

This is a repost of an article that originally appeared on

Catherine Esser

Catherine Esser

Catherine is a contributor to She was born and raised in Cape Town, South Africa, but met her American husband in South Korea, while they were both teaching there. They moved to China in 2011, and have since traveled the world and had their first child. Catherine enjoys running, photography, blogging, food, and outdoor adventure. She and her husband blog about life, love, travel and all things in-between at


  1. Sarah

    Hello, do you have any tips for managing in hotel quarantine whilst pregnant? I\’m 12/13 weeks and did a week in Hong Kong and now in China. In HK I could order food in, but not here and the quarantine food makes me feel sick. I\’m also not getting enough or the right nutrients. It\’s my first baby. I\’m hoping any damage won\’t be too bad!

  2. Brook Liu

    It’s definitely something to get used to! My husband is a Chinese national, and he and his family are all very traditional and conservative. I’ve been told so many times by them that my clothes are too tight or that I’m not wearing enough, even though I get so hot! My husband often gets fussy with me if he comes home to see that I’ve cleaned the house, and makes sure to guide me up and down stairs (which is helpful now that I have a bigger belly, but he’s been doing it for most of the pregnancy). He’s also brought home so many types of food that people have told him that are good for me and the baby. I appreciate that everyone cares so much and want to do what is best for the baby, but it’s a little overwhelming at times.

  3. Natalia

    And they don’t allow pregnant women in the swimming pools. As soon as my membership expired, the pool kicked me out on the grounds that I’m pregnant and in China pregnant women aren’t ALLOWED to swim

    • Jeremy & Jacquelyn Carman

      Wow, Natalia! I’ve not heard of that one before. I wonder what the reasoning behind not allowing a pregnant women to swim is.

      My wife is currently pregnant and we’ve gone swimming a few times and haven’t had a problem. It would be interesting to find out if other pregnant women have experienced this before.

      • Natalia

        Well, I went swimming from months 4-6, and I quite enjoyed it, especially in this unbearable summer heat. When my membership expired though and I wanted to extend it for couple more months, I was refused on the grounds that I’m pregnant, which didn’t seem to bother them too much previously. The funniest part is when they told me that if I didnt consider my health and condition,they did it for me. I think they are just afraid for premature labour or something and didn’t want to deal with a foreigner

  4. Cynthia Simmons

    The rules for pregnant women are quite strict. According to china culture, having a baby is very important and it is a big responsiblity of women

  5. Tayeba

    My husband I have been planning a trip to China since earlier this year (planning for Sep 16-Oct 9). We recently found out that we are pregnant and I will be 12 weeks along just prior to leaving for China. I am a little bit concerned about food especially with the added dietary restrictions of pregnancy. Can you provide any insights about your experience. I don’t speak any local languages (which can be a problem when trying to explain dietary restrictions) and am a little bit nervous if I am being careless going all together and risking my pregnancy. Thoughts?

    Thank you,

    • Chels

      Hello, I live in China, but am American and have been here for my whole pregnancy: 5 months. I wouldn’t worry too much about the food, just eat at clean places where you know what you are eating. I haven’t had any problems at all, but avoid food that looks oily (which is common).


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