For pregnant women in China, 2015 is not an auspicious year to have a baby. According to Chinese tradition, babies born in the Year of the Sheep are destined to be unlucky.
As a resident of Shanghai – and due to give birth in March – I'm trying not to pay too much attention to such gloomy predictions, particularly since most of the traditional Chinese pregnancy advice given to me (and my friends) has bordered on the surreal.
Just as in the UK, people in China love to give helpful suggestions to women with a bump, and you never quite know when or where the next pearl of wisdom will come from.
Here are some of the most treasured pieces of advice that my pregnant friends and I have been offered by everyone from work colleagues to random strangers on the street...
1. Walk up the stairs if you want to give birth to a boy and down the stairs if you want a girl.
2. If you get spots during pregnancy then your baby will be a boy, but if your skin is clear and pretty then you'll have a girl.
3. After giving birth, make soap out of your breast milk for your husband and add breast milk to your family's food to 'increase family love'.
4. During pregnancy do not drink cold water. In traditional Chinese medicine cold drinks are not good for a mother's health.
5. Stay away from ice cream.
6. Avoid consuming dark substances such as coffee, soy sauce and red bean paste, because your baby will have darker skin.
7. Don't eat pineapple as this could result in a miscarriage.
8. Do not touch adhesive materials such as glue or tape. This can cause your baby to be born with a birthmark.
9. Eat apples to make your baby beautiful and drink tea if you want him/her to be ugly. (Um, why would you?)
10. If you keep any kind of sharp object near your bed, your baby may be born with a cleft palate.
11. Do not look at dogs while pregnant or your baby will end up with a 'dog's face'.
12. Finish all the rice in your bowl otherwise every uneaten grain will end up as a freckle on your baby's face.
13. Avoid all technology while pregnant. So refrain from using your laptop, mobile phone, TV and the office photocopier. All of these devices give off radiation that could harm the baby.
14. Wear an apron (like this one) that will protect you from radiation. Although be warned, the rays can still get trapped inside.
15. If you must use your computer, place a cactus nearby to absorb radiation.
16. Don't sit on an exercise ball while working. The risk of falling off is too high.
17. Absolutely do not cycle or run during pregnancy as this is likely to cause a miscarriage.
18. Don't use the moving arms on the cross trainer while in the gym.
19. Wear baggy clothes at all times. Stretchy maternity clothes, including pregnancy jeans, are not good for the baby.
20. Don't wear heels, make-up or revealing clothes while pregnant.
21. Wear socks and shoes at all times during pregnancy. Cold feet can cause you to have a miscarriage.
22. Eat chicken soup using stock made from a 'lao mu ji' (an old female hen) for good health.
23. Do not kiss, hug or share your food with your first-born child while you are pregnant, or the baby inside will be jealous.
24. Don't move large furniture around in your home while pregnant because it will upset the baby. Leave all furniture in place until the baby is born.
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