Post-natal care is a booming industry in China, but are the five-figure price tags masking deeper problems?
Lying comfortably in bed, Wang Ying, 29, doesn’t think having a baby was as difficult as people said it would be. In the 26 days since she gave birth to her son, aside from getting up a few times at night to feed him, she has had nothing to busy herself with—meals are served to her bed, warm bathwater is prepared, and she even enjoys an abdominal massage every day. This is all part of the 24-hour care offered by her “maternity matron.”
In China, maternity caregivers such as Wang’s are called yuesao, or 月嫂, with 月 meaning “month,” and 嫂 referring to relatively young married women. According to tradition, the month following childbirth is an important period of recovery for the mother. In this month, mothers are required to zuoyuezi, or 坐月子, which literally translates to“sit the month,” which means staying indoors, resting, keeping away from cold air and physical exertion, and focusing on nutrition. Yuesao, as the word implies, are married women who assist new mothers as they “sit the month.” They are on duty around the clock: cooking special meals for the mother, taking care of the baby, and serving as health consultants.
This crucial post-natal care, once done by older family members, is now done by paid professionals. Yuesao services have become increasingly popular in recent years, especially among young parents whose childrearing ideas may clash with the elder generation.
Maternal Instinct is a story from our issue, “Wildest Fantasy.” To read the entire issue, become a subscriber and receive the full magazine. Alternatively, you can purchase the digital version from the App Store.