What To Expect in A Malay Post Natal Care (Berpantang)

Karey and Casey Jordan
Karey and Casey Jordan | Source

What Experts Thought About Berpantang

  • Beneficial :
    The incidence of postnatal depression is low in Malaysia at 3.9%. Majority of Malaysian women still observed the traditional postnatal beliefs and practices.
    - Incidence of postnatal depression in Malaysian women. (1997)
  • Beneficial:
    Anthropologists G. Stern and L. Kruckman found that mothers in Asian countries do better after birth than those in Western countries. They describe that many postpartum problems, especially postpartum depression, were virtually non-existent. By contrast, about 14% of mothers in developed countries suffer moderate to severe postpartum depression. They attribute the lower level of depression to the traditional postpartum care or ‘pantang’.
    - Multi-disciplinary perspectives on post-partum depression: an anthropological critique. PubMed, social science and medicine 1983

Malays are Strict About It

Post natal care in the East is viewed and approached differently than in the West. In Malaysia for example, a Malay mom would normally be taken care of by her mom or mother in law.

Only in rare cases will a mother look after herself. And even when that happens, she will still observes a few traditions -- including having herself massaged by a traditional massaeur as well as eat special diet void of certain food.

Below are some traditions expected during berpantang :

Berpantang Example

#1 - Duration

For the Malays, the duration is at least 40 days. This is the minimum time for the mom to limit herself to work, eat special diets and forbidden from sex.

In the West, there is no special time, although 6 weeks is the duration recommended by doctors. Refraining from sex is not something as strict as in the Malay pantang. Hence, some mothers start to have sex within days, even when she is not fully healed. This could lead to death.

For Malays, the time is needed for the mom to fully regain her strength, heal and care for the baby.

#2 Forbidden Food

During the berpantang period, some food are to be avoided. The food are food that are considered cold (like cucumber) for it may cause rheumatism in old age, gassy (like jackfruits) for it will bloat and weaken the moms body or itchy (like stigray).

The list is extensive. That is the reason why the person looking after the mom is usually an elderly or one knowledgeable enough to pass the information and tradition.

#3 Special Massage

A full body massage, around 1 week after delivery is a norm. This is usually done by a traditional masseur called bidan.

The aim is the help smooth out the blood circulation as well as putting the joints and other internal organs in "its place".

Massage usually takes more than an hour, and the cost is not fixed, but is normally up to the mom. Another massage is normally done before the end of the pantang period.

#4 Bertungku

Mothers reeling from exhausting labor are expected not only to rest but to also follow certain practise, such as bertungku.

This is similar to hot press in the West. But moms are expected to do this ritual daily,especially after taking bath. The tungku is normally applied on the stomach and are usually made of river stones, covered in cloth.

There's also hot press or tungku for babies.

A Herbal Tungku (Hot Press)

A tungku - or hot press to warm the stomach of mothers, reduce pain and help circulate blood flow. In the old time,it is made of stone. Nowadays commercialized ones are made of herbs
A tungku - or hot press to warm the stomach of mothers, reduce pain and help circulate blood flow. In the old time,it is made of stone. Nowadays commercialized ones are made of herbs

#5 Taking Jamu

When it comes to nutrition, mothers are not only expected to follow a strict diet, but also to take jamu -- a concoction of herbs specially formulated by midwives.

In the old days, roots and leaves of herbs are normally boiled and taken as tea. But right now, herbs are normally available as pills like the set from SpaNMa here.

Some mothers avoid jamu for some concoction may have unintended effects to their nursing babies. But many take it in lower doses, from the 2nd week of pregnancy since it helps them lose weight as well as heal faster.

Jamu Pills

An example of jamu available for post natal moms. Someof the herbs used are shown together with the jamu
An example of jamu available for post natal moms. Someof the herbs used are shown together with the jamu

#6 Abdominal Wrap

This used to be a must for Malay mothers and some other races in the East.

The trend of wrappping the abdomen however, has catch up in the West. Hollywood actresses like Jessica Alba are known to wear it after the birth of their babies to help slim the tummy.

For the Malays, this is one part of the berpantang to help mothers reduce their weight and regain their figure after a delivery. The wrap is used on the second week onwards.

#7 Other Traditions

There are a few more traditions when it comes to Malay post natal treatment. But as Malays start to lead busy working life, these traditions are slowly fading away.

The traditions include bertangas (steam bath), lulur (body scrub) and the use of pilis (forehead calming paste).

Because of that, modern approach to berpantang is also widely available now. The sets from Anugerah for example, includes the tungku, abdominal wraps as well as massage oils needed by the mom.

Modern Set Bersalin

A bersalin set from Tanamera. This one takes a spa like approach to bersalin. It doesn't come with the jamu. This particular set is also exported overseas.
A bersalin set from Tanamera. This one takes a spa like approach to bersalin. It doesn't come with the jamu. This particular set is also exported overseas.

Tell Us What You Think

What Do You Think of Berpantang

  • A bunch of useless old tradition
  • Not bad if it helps
  • Useful, interested to learn more
  • Very important. I use it myself
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Summary About Berpantang

So, there you go. An overview about berpantang -- a post natal care normally used by the Malay, Chinese and Indians.

It is just that our focus for this hub is on the Malays and show what you should expect. It is extremely different from the West, and is an interesting difference that should be explored and studied further.

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