Sanhujori (Korean: 산후조리) is the Korean system of care for women after childbirth, a culturally specific form of postpartum confinement. Sanhujori include consuming healthy foods, doing exercise and warming up the body. Sanhujoriperiod typically lasts approximately from 1 week to 1 month. Sanhujori is a mixed word 'Sanhu' Korean: 산후; after the birth) and 'Jori' (Korean: 조리; the regaining of the physical condition before the next pregnancy by doing a variety of recovery activities). In a pre-modern society, Sanhujori services were provided by the family members of mothers. However, the traditional extended family system has been broken up and the services began to be offered by private postpartum centers (Sanhujoriwon) and postpartum care workers (Sanhujorisa). People often believe that Sanhujori has a great impact on women’s life-long health conditions; mothers who do not properly performed Sanhujori practices may suffer from a range of illnesses, such as joint inflammation, urinary incontinence, low blood pressure, and depression.
In Korean history, Sanhujori services were usually provided by the mother's family members and in-law families. These family members performed a range of tasks, such as cooking foods for them and taking care of their newborns, thereby liberating the mothers from the heavy housework load. Through this process, mothers had an opportunity to recover their health and learn knowledge and skills, which are necessary for child caring in the future. On the other hand, some Sanhujori practices were superstitious rather than practical; family members sometimes blocked mothers from participating in funeral events or talking with chief mourners as it was feared that it would bring bad luck both for mothers and infants. As the traditional extended family structure almost disappeared and a nuclear family system is prevailing in recent society, Sanhujori services started to be provided by Sanhujoriwon, which means a Korean-style private postpartum care center. This type of private centers was first introduced in 1996 in Korea.
A Sanhujoriwon is a private center which offers customized services both for mothers and their infants during the postpartum period. Until late 1998, the demand for Sanhujoriwon had exceeded its supply and the simple opening of Sanhujoriwon usually guaranteed its success. As a result, poor-quality, unqualified centers had mushroomed before 2000. While many underqualified centers have since been closed due to poor management and fire incidents, the number of Sanhujoriwons has increased gradually recently. According to a national survey, it was estimated that about 50 percent of the total female population in Korea have used Sanhujoriwon after childbirth, in 2012. The services include skin therapy, body massages, and 24/7 care of newborns. Some Sanhujoriwon offer education programs of flower arrangement and laughter therapy to prevent postpartum depression.
A Sanhujorisa is a type of care worker who visits a mother's house and provides visiting services for Sanhujori care. Sanhujorisa workers are broadly categorized into part-time workers and co-living employees. Depending on broker agencies and the demands of mothers, they perform a variety of house chores, such as laundry, room cleaning, and care of other family members, alongside the Sanhujori service itself. These days, as a result of globalization and a massive inflow of immigrant workers, Joseonjok immigrants, who migrate from Northeast China, are becoming the largest portion of Sanhujorisa job market. In the public sector, the YMCA, local governments, and public health centers are providing education programs to train professional Sanhujorisa for a small payment or at no charge. On the other hand, in the private sector, Korea Qualification Development Center (KQDC) is granting certificates for those who successfully complete education programs and pass a qualification examination for Sanhujorisa.
The main tenants of Sanhujori emphasize activities and foods that keep the body warm, rest and relaxation to maximize the body’s return to its normal state, maintaining cleanliness, eating nutritious foods, and peace of mind and heart.
Eating beneficial Sanhujori foods
To facilitate recovery after childbirth, many Korean mothers consume the specific type of Korean traditional cuisines, which is commonly called "Sanhujori foods." Common characteristics of Sanhujori foods are summarized as being soft, warm, and refreshing while cuisines with spicy flavors are perceived to be bad for the postpartum period. Among a variety of Sanhujori cuisines, seaweed soup is most widely consumed by Korean mothers. Researchers demonstrated that seaweed contains a great deal of omega-3 fatty acids, i.e., polyunsaturated fatty acids found in certain seeds and fish, and the soup with seaweed helps to accelerate the recovery time of mothers. Other than seaweed soup, Korean women also eat a variety of exotic, traditional dishes, such as a pig bone soup, ray soup, and dried cod soup.
Keep one's body warm
To keep their body warm, Korean mothers avoid cold temperatures and cold foods such as ice cream and cold water. Staying indoors and refraining from outdoor activities is perceived as one of the effective ways to keep the mother's body warm. Even exposure to a cold breeze caused by the shutting of doors is a taboo in the period of the Sanhujori practices. If a mother fails to keep their body warm, it is traditionally believed that she will become vulnerable to Sanhubyung, which means a life-long illness after the postpartum period.
Doing moderate physical exercise
Childbirth tends to lower the immunity of mothers, and they may have pains and swellings in their bodies. During the postpartum period, Korean mothers do light stretching and self-massage of the muscles to relax and strengthen their bodies. It is scientifically proved that 30 minutes exercise, per day, is helpful in recovering the bladder and pelvic muscles rapidly.
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