Guest post: “Pregnant women really shouldn’t have dogs”

In today’s guest post I’d like to introduce you to Rosie Zhao. Rosie is an American woman who came to China in 2005. Though only planning to stay for several months, everything changed when she met the Chinese man who would later become her husband. They married in her hometown, Milwaukee, in 2007. She currently lives in Hebei Province with her husband, step-daughter, and dog. They are expecting a baby boy in mid-April. Here’s the post:

Is this little dog a big threat to pregnant women?

Is this little dog a big threat to pregnant women?

Eight months pregnant and in need of my daily walk, I decided to take my teeny, tiny poodle out and stop by a nearby ATM. Upon entering the bank, I did the polite thing, picking up my dog in case there was anyone in the vicinity who feared four pounds of fluff. I got in line while the man at the machine fuddled through what seemed like an endless string of transactions. Before long, there were several others waiting. I noticed the middle-aged woman directly behind me, who began to eye me up suspiciously.

“Do you always carry your dog around like that?” she asked.

“No,” I answered politely, “I just didn’t want her to bother anybody.”

“Pregnant women really shouldn’t have dogs,” she informed me. I had already heard this one before. Of all the prenatal advice Chinese people had given me, this little gem irked me the most.

“That’s Chinese thinking. In America, people don’t think that way,” I replied curtly.

“No doctor would say it’s okay to have a dog,” she retorted.

I felt my face flush as my temper rose, “an American doctor would say it’s okay,” I shot back.

“But dogs have germs, don’t they?” she questioned rhetorically.

I bit my lip, wanting to make a snide comment about the constant germs and pollution that surrounded us, but decided against causing a scene.

“I don’t know you, please don’t manage me,” I said instead.

She nodded in understanding, just as it became my turn at the ATM. I angrily pressed on the terminal’s keys, which were surely dirtier than my dog.

Were you ever annoyed if people told you what to do or what to refrain from doing? I’d love to read your comments.

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19 thoughts on “Guest post: “Pregnant women really shouldn’t have dogs”

    • Guest poster here!

      I try not to get worked up, but some days, it gets tiring. These comments happen frequently, from both strangers and family. And you may think it’s ignorant, but even Chinese doctors believe things like this. Sometimes it makes you question your own beliefs about health.


  1. tbh, not even most Chinese doctors would say rubbish like that, it is just the general idea of Chinese people. Its funny because they think all those animals have all kinds of very bad germs for the pregnant women but they don’t even consider once the environmental issues in China which have much bigger impact or on another scale, many don’t even wash there hands after the toilet (I have never seen so many people just rushing by and not washing their hands..and I thought there were many people ignoring it in Europe but I was taught better in China)


    • Thanks for your comment.

      As far as having a pet, it hasn’t come up with my Chinese doctor, but that’s not really the point. Among both Chinese doctors and the general public, there are very different ideas about health compared to in the west. For example, it is still widely believed, even by some doctors, that couples shouldn’t have sex while pregnant.

      I think ideas are changing, but I don’t live in a big or particularly modern city, so my experience is perhaps different from those living in places like Beijing, Shanghai, etc. where people tend to brace more “modern” ways of thinking. I have also found that my 80’s generation Chinese friends have much different ideas than those of my student’s parents (70’s generation) or my in-laws (50’s generation).


      • True, it always depends on the area and how much it developed. In my experience with Chinese doctors I was speaking about Xi’an and its surroundings so I cannot say anything regarding other areas 🙂


    • I don’t think that people don’t consider environmental problems, but environmental problems are not something you can easily change (and not on a one-person basis), so it can’t really be compared to having pets, which is an active decision you make.

      There are certain illnesses you can get from eg. a cat’s bite (speaking from experience), so I don’t think that it’s ridiculous per se if you’re worried about pets bringing germs into your home.


      • I couldn’t say it better.
        People do now about poluttion issues, they really know about it but that’s something they can’t actually control.
        In my family when any of my cousins got pregnant the dog would move to another’s cousin family for the period. It doesn’t sound crazy to me, animals have germs and if you can control a small part of the germs that are part of your life why not doing it.


      • I meant more to what levels many Chinese go when they are pregnant when it comes to pets. Too often I saw them basicaly kick their dogs or cats out of the apartment. One family got even rid of their fishtank (flushed the fishes down the toilet) because they emit certain fumes which make the baby blind…
        I know there are dangers, with any kind of animal bite or scratch. Even the bacteria in cat litter is very dangerous when the cat isnt chekced out properly and there are much more dangers but at the same I see already dangers in normal Chinese electricity buttons, e.g. for the light! 🙂 (got more often than not some electric shocks in various new apartments but weirdly not in old ones)


  2. Hi Rosie! Thanks for sharing your experience and wish you a smooth final term and delivery!
    This kind of things that seem to be “common knowledge” in China also get me on my nerves. I think I’m going to slap the next person who tells me you can’t eat cold things when you have your period. And OMG when my colleague told me recently that she didn’t wash her hair for a month after giving birth. I think I would die from having dirty hair more than for catching a cold or whatever the “reason” is for not washing your hair for one month after delivery…


    • Hi Marta. Thanks for your comment.

      Funny you mention periods and showering, as I have also heard that you shouldn’t shower while menstruating! My husband used to be a personal trainer and women would cancel their sessions when they had their periods because it is believed to be harmful to exercise and shower during that time.

      I’m in the process of “negotiating” my zuo yuezi (one month confinement post-birth) right now. Luckily, my husband and his mom are pretty open-minded and also realize this isn’t something we do in my home country. I will be washing my hair! I recently read a book about zuo yuezi (written by a doctor in Beijing) and she said that hygiene is important (YES!) and women should shower, but be careful not to get too cold because your body is a bit weak. So ideas about these things may slowly become more reasonable. Win!


    • Hi Marta,
      Tbh not drinking cold helped me a lot. Is not as crazy as it sounds.
      I used to have a lot of pain during my period, I fainted and all.
      Then I went to my doctor and he recommended me to stop drinking cold, avoid milk, do not take citrics, specially my morning orange juice..and etc etc..
      I did one by one and I can tell you it did make a huge difference.
      I do not drink cold water at all during my period, and if for some reason I do (summer) it just takes me 30-40 minutes to have an awful pain in my stomach.
      And this was a suggestion from my doctor in Spain.


  3. I host college-educated au pairs from China to watch my little one. Their beliefs related to health and medical care seem to center on the temperature of food and beverages.

    The first young woman thought that she should only drink hot water during her cycle. The current au pair thinks that the healthiness of food is related to the heat at which it was cooked, rather than the ingredients. So soup cooked for a long time at a low temperature is healthier than eating hot pot (which can cause the canker sores “associated” with eating foods cooked at high temperatures). Both were taken aback that the baby/toddler is given cold milk from the fridge and allowed to play with toys in her bath, thus prolonging her bath.

    The temperature thing probably harmless, but be aware that Chinese may give the baby water (or broth) instead of milk or food. I would check the guidelines established by the pediatric medical association in your home country for the recommended nutritional requirements and get everyone (in-laws, babysitter, etc.) on the same page.


    • Thanks for your thoughts on this topic.

      Believes are different, but I wouldn’t say they are outright wrong. We wouldn’t give an infant cold milk from the fridge in Austria either (it would be heated to have a warm but not too hot temperature). We do let them play with toys when taking a bath though. I guess everyone has to work out what feels right for them, it might be what you’re used to from your home country, but it might also be a mix of both cultures (especially if the parents come from very different cultural backgrounds).


      • I reviewed my comment and realized it sounded more callous than intended. I just wanted to bring to your attention that while some cultural practices may be harmless, one in particular is not harmless. The baby may not receive enough calories/nutrition if you’re giving water/broth at some of the feedings. As a first-time mom, I didn’t know that you wouldn’t give a new baby water until my doctor told me so. Becoming a mother was like having another job because there was just so much information to sort through.

        I sincerely wish you a healthy and happy pregnancy, with a wonderfully healthy baby.


        • I see. I don’t think it’s common thought in China that you should feed your baby water – most people seem to give breast milk at the very beginning and change to baby formula soon after that here. Haven’t heard of the broth thing before?! I agree, there’s a whole lot of information out there and a lot of conflicting information at that.

          Thanks! Hope everything’s well with your little one!


      • I second the admin’s comments here. I don’t know any Chinese person who would withhold milk from their baby when it’s available. In fact, the Chinese are so desperate for safe, high-quality milk that they buy up milk powder in bulk and cause localized shortages at home and overseas.

        Only people who can’t provide milk for their baby resort to feeding them rice porridge and broth.


      • They (the au pairs – not all of China) call it “soup” but they mean just the broth portion of soup cooked with meat, bones, and veggies. They (and their mothers/sisters) thought it was a good idea to give that to babies a couple of times a day, whereas Americans would give milk/formula/food for each feeding up to a certain age. The other feedings would be milk/formula/food, so they didn’t see it was “withholding” but “supplementing.” The two au pairs are from different regions of China; each has 1 or 2 sisters who work as hospital nurses who share the idea. My sample size is pretty limited, but it doesn’t appear to be an anomaly among people who can afford food/milk/formula.


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