Although much educational intervention has focused on pregnancy related nutrition and health problems [1–3]. Such education programs are often not maintained during the postpartum period. Postpartum period received less attention as compared with pregnancy and childbirth .
The postpartum period, or puerperium, starts about an hour after the delivery of the placenta and includes the following six weeks . By six weeks after delivery, most of the changes of pregnancy, labor, and delivery have resolved and the body has reverted to the nonpregnant state [5, 6]. The postpartum period is a very special phase in the life of a woman. Her body needs to heal and recover from pregnancy and childbirth. A good postpartum care and well balanced diet during the puerperal period is very important for the health of a woman.
According to Chinese traditions, the first 30 or 40 days postpartum is recognized as a special time period for behaviour restrictions and a state for convalescence. This period is called 'sitting month' or 'doing the month'. Based on Chinese traditional medicine, postpartum women are in a 'weak' state because of 'Qi' deficiency and blood loss . Their body can be easily attacked by 'heat' or 'cold ', which may cause some health problems like dizziness, headache, backache and arthragia in the month or in later years. Therefore, Chinese women are advised to follow a specific set of food choices and health care practices. For example, the puerperal women should stay inside and not go outdoors; all windows in the room should be sealed well to avoid wind. Bathing and hair washing should be restricted to prevent possible headache and body pain in later years. Foods such as fruits, vegetables, soybean products and cold drinks which are considered 'cold', should be avoided [8, 9]. In contrast, foods such as brown sugar, fish, chicken and pig's trotter which are considered 'hot' should be encouraged [9, 10]. It is believed that if a woman does not observe these restrictions, she may suffer a poor health at her later life.
Several studies indicated that the incidences of postpartum health problems are high and these problems maybe have relation to traditional and unscientific dietary and behavior practices in the postpartum period [11–13]. Available Chinese data also suggested that the incidences of constipation and hemorrhoids were associated with lack of exercises and a decreased intake of fruit and vegetables, the risk of oral problems were associated with not brush the teeth and excessive intake of sugar during the puerperium [11, 13].
This article describes a health and nutrition education intervention undertaken in both urban and rural area to try to overcome the traditional unhealthy postpartum practices. This paper builds on an earlier report where it was shown that the traditional postpartum convalescence habits mainly passed down from senior females in the family to the younger generations. Women have limited access to contemporary postpartum practices, especially those who living in rural area . The goals of the intervention were to provide information and guidance on contemporary postpartum practices and take away common misconceptions about traditional dietary and health behaviors (e.g. fruit and vegetables should be restricted because of cold nature, postpartum women should stay inside and not go outdoors). In order to allow a decision to be made about possible larger scale implementation of this intervention, the present study aimed at assess the effects of the intervention on dietary and health behavior among the participants.