Being an integral part of Thai Traditional Midwifery practices or Moh Tum Yae, Traditional postpartum care and treatments are still popular in contemporary Thai society and are continued by close female family relatives of those who give birth.
The Traditional Postpartum practice in Thailand is strongly related to the concept of “regaining heat,” or what is generally called Yu Fai (Yuu-Fai or Yoo Fai). Practices include so-called “lying by fire,” certain dietary restrictions, application of hot herbal compresses, herbal steam treatments, abdominal binding, taking hot (herbal) baths and having hot drinks, and other activities that prevent “heat loss” like for instance keeping the body covered, sexual abstinence, and avoiding the wind.
Traditionally, a woman in Thailand is officially an adult after giving birth to her first child. She then subsequently undergoes the Yu Fai ritual, that is—“lying by fire” for a certain number of days. Some of the goals are shrinking the uterus to the normal size, flattening the stomach, and removing stretch marks and perineal tears. Another aspect is the belief that fire and heat scares off evil spirits.
In practice, the “lying by fire” ritual is done by wearing warm clothes, being wrapped in blankets, and lying down on a wooden bed over a warm fire. Other translations given to Yu Fai are “confinement by the fire,” “being with the fire,” “lying above the fire,” or “lying-in by fire.”
Apart from “heat therapy,” Thai Massage is another important activity during the postpartum period. Thai Massage is given with the principal focus on treating the legs and the back, relieving after-birth pains, improving blood circulation, stimulating lactation (nursing), and regaining normal functioning of the body.
Today in Thailand, there’s continuous effort made to integrate Thai Traditional Medicine into the national health care system, combining modern contemporary methods with traditional knowledge. Modern comprehensive Thai Midwifery courses and studies (of which Yu Fai is a part) are offered at colleges and universities, but also by private licensed institutes or individuals.
Often, Traditional Midwifery studies are a component of a larger Thai Traditional Medicine study (which includes traditional medical practice, traditional pharmacy and traditional massage). However, Thai Traditional Midwifery can be studied separately also, which then takes about one year.
For foreigners there are currently some options to take Yu-Fai or other Postpartum treatments and trainings in Thailand. Most of the Yu Fai treatments take an odd number of days, say three, five or seven days, but eleven days is traditionally very common also. It’s believed in Thailand that doing Yu Fai an even number of days will give a woman too many babies.