Pregnancy, a wonderful time in a woman’s life, can be worrisome because of unwarranted restrictions imposed by myths
Pregnancy is a time of joy and happiness. The couple should be able to look forward to the arrival of the baby, with anticipation and exhilaration. It is a natural event in the life of a woman and, therefore, should be treated as such. Unfortunately, many couples are filled with anxiety and apprehension, engendered by myths and misconceptions generated by family and friends.
As soon as a woman becomes pregnant she starts being treated like a fragile being who might break if she does any work! This is unnecessary and turns a lovely time into one filled with unwarranted restrictions.
Myths in the first trimester
If the foetus has a lot of hair, vomiting will increase - False!
It is difficult to eat well in the first few months of pregnancy. The sudden surge of estrogen in the body causes nausea.
If you don’t eat well in the first three months of pregnancy, the baby will be affected - False!
It is best to eat whatever you are able to keep down. You need not worry about nutritious value at this time. Eat small quantities frequently and avoid oily, highly spiced food. Some women cannot stand the smell of dairy products in the first few months of pregnancy. It is not harmful to avoid milk and curds at this time. Once your appetite returns to normal, you can start eating nutritiously.
You should be under complete bed rest in the first three months of pregnancy - False!
This is absolutely untrue. If the pregnancy has formed normally, strenuous activity cannot lead to a miscarriage. On the other hand, if the pregnancy is abnormal and is destined to miscarry, no amount of bed rest can keep it safe. Of course, you will feel very sleepy and exhausted in the first two or three months of pregnancy. You can keep up your usual work schedule and rest whenever you get the time. Complete bed rest, however, leaves the woman feeling unwell and actually leads to weakening of the leg muscles. There is no scientific basis for a pregnant woman to be advised complete bed rest in early pregnancy unless she has had some bleeding. In that case she will be asked to rest for a few days.
You should not climb stairs in the first three months of pregnancy - False!
Travelling in an autorickshaw or on bumpy roads can lead to a miscarriage - Not true!
You should avoid intercourse in the first three months because it may lead to a miscarriage - Not true.
Indians love food! Consequently, we have our own mythology surrounding food. In pregnancy, women are bombarded with unwanted ‘tips’ and warnings that supposedly protect the baby. Most have no basis in scientific fact.
You should not eat papayas, mangoes or pineapples because they may cause a miscarriage - False! As mentioned earlier, a miscarriage occurs because there is usually an abnormality in the fetus. A miscarriage is Nature’s way of preventing the further growth of an abnormal baby.
Sesame seed (til seeds, ellu) can cause an abortion - Not true! In Indian food culture, some foods are considered to have increased ‘heat’ and supposedly can harm the baby. This has no scientific basis and no food need be avoided.
If you take iron tablets, your baby will be dark - Not true! The skin colour of the baby is determined by its genes, not by what you eat.
Saffron makes your baby fair skinned - Not true! Saffron, when mixed in food actually imparts an orange tinge! It is beyond comprehension why this expensive spice gained such a reputation in pregnancy. No food that you eat can have any effect on the colour of your baby’s skin. That is determined by genetics. The future characteristics of the baby are fixed on the day fertilisation occurs and the foetus forms. The colour of the skin, the shape of the nose, the curliness of the hair and its future height are some of the things that are already determined by the genes the baby has inherited from its parents.
Eating ghee is important because it will make the delivery easy - Not true! Ghee is an unsaturated fat that will only add unwanted weight and should be avoided.
(To be continued)
(The author is a Chennai-based obstetrician and gynaecologist with a special interest in women’s health issues.)