"Why I refused to follow these traditional practices during my pregnancy"

"Why I refused to follow these traditional practices during my pregnancy"

Pregnant women are often bombarded with various traditional Indian pregnancy myths. Here are my top 11 picks from some of the strangest practices I heard

When you first see those two pink lines, you feel a rush of many feelings that cannot be described in a single word. It makes you feel special, responsible, loved, grateful, concerned, anxious; all at the same time. At least that's how I felt when I found out about my pregnancy.

But little did I know that pregnancy would open me to a bombardment of all sorts of old wives tales. From aunties to family members, relatives to people I had only met once during my own wedding and even uncles; everybody seemed to have an opinion on what I should or shouldn’t do, and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by conflicting recommendations. Almost everybody you know would be ready with their versions of what's right and wrong.

But here's the thing.

I am an educated and independent woman who believes in scientifically verified facts and not hearsay. Am sure there are many of you who chose to follow these pregnancy myths and many of you who ignored them. I did pretty much the same as well. I chose not to follow them all and instead headed straight to the doctor for some myth busting.

Here's what I found.

#1 I should be eating for two people now 

The average woman with normal weight pre-pregnancy needs only about 300 extra calories per day to promote her baby's growth. Dr. Helai Gupta, senior consultant, Obstetrics and Gynecology, Paras Bliss, New Delhi, explains, "A woman of normal weight should gain 11 to 15 kgs during pregnancy -- less if she's overweight. Also, women who gain more than 22 kgs when they're carrying just one child, have a higher risk of a cesarean section or a difficult vaginal birth and babies who are 'overgrown' at birth, are more likely to be obese when they're adults."

#2 Carrying heavy things will induce labour

This is partly true. "Picking up heavy load can aggravate backache and can cause spinal injury. However, if it doesn’t strain you and if you do it in the right way, it is fine to lift some amount of weight. For instance, carrying grocery bags and young kids is perfectly fine if you do it in the right way. You should bend your knees to lift anything and carry it close to your body. Do not bend on your back as this will prevent weight from affecting the back. Also, instead of straining just one side of your body, always divide the weight equally between two arms," says Dr Gupta.

#3 Exercising will harm my baby

Any exercise regimen should be started after consulting your doctor under trained professionals. Dr Gupta explains that being fit increases one's stamina and prepares one for the strenuous process of childbirth. "In fact, women who were not used to doing any exercise are often advised to start doing some during their pregnancy. Brisk walk is the safest, swimming, breathing exercises and yoga and meditation are again recommended as they are great relaxants but should only be practiced after consulting with doctor," she says.

Continue reading to know more about the various traditional Indian pregnancy myths.

#4 Flying is not really safe for pregnant women

Dr Gupta from Paras Bliss, New Delhi, explains, "It is perfectly safe to fly once in a while if your delivery date is more than six weeks away. Passing through airport security will also not affect your baby. If your flight is a long one, just move around a bit and stretch your legs. However, frequent fliers need to be a bit more cautious." Problem solved!

#5 Cell phones, microwaves and even computers are harmful

Now, science says that computers have been scientifically proven to be totally safe. As for microwaves, you are at risk of getting radiated only if there is a leakage. So why should I not warm my food or use my computer during pregnancy? "Do that only to be on the safer side. Maintain a safe distance while they are on these gadgets. Similarly cell phones do not harm your baby in any way either," says Dr Gupta.

#6 If baby doesn’t seem to move much, his development is slow

Your baby's movements start and continue at its own pace. If you are extremely worried about your baby's movements, try to keep a count once in a while. Dr Gupta gives a simple solution. She says that as long as you can feel 10 movements over a twelve -hour period, you have no cause for worry. "This will be frequently required as your delivery date gets closer. Unless you are actually counting, you might miss a few movements leading to unwarranted fears," she adds.

#7 I should not get my hair coloured when I am pregnant

I already got my hair coloured before the pregnancy, so I am sorted. But if somebody told you to not get your hair coloured, probably listen to them, especially if you are at the later stages of your pregnancy. Dr Gupta explains, "It is best to avoid chemicals like hair color during the first three months as these get absorbed from the scalp and reach the blood stream. During the latter half of pregnancy, however, it may not be that risky. Still, natural and herbal preparations should be preferred."

#8 Pregnant women with low belly have a boy, and pregnancy acne means a girl

I personally found this to be an extremely funny topic of discussion. Because how a woman carries her baby depends on her body type and whether she has been pregnant before. But in either case it does not reflect the gender at all. So how do aunties come to this conclusion? Dr Gupta says, "During a second pregnancy, the belly may appear to be lower since abdominal muscles may be looser. Similarly, pregnancy acne also has nothing to do with gender; it is just a result of natural hormonal changes."

Continue reading to know more about the various traditional Indian pregnancy myths.

#9 Slow foetal heart rate means a boy child and a fast foetal heart rate means a girl child

First of all, how did the daimaas or the aunties come to know of this? And second of all, there have been no studies that conclusively prove that heart rate is a predictor for a baby's gender. "Your baby's heart rate will probably differ from one prenatal visit to another anyway depending upon the age of the fetus and the activity level at the time of the visit," explains Dr Gupta from Paras Bliss, New Delhi.

#10 Eating papaya causes abortion

This was a really sad revelation/myth, because I love this fruit and eat it almost everyday. So now it turns out that I should only stick to eating ripe papaya. "That's because raw papaya is suspected to contain chymopapain, which is supposed to induce abortion or early labour. But ripe papaya is considered to be safe and is a good source of vitamin A, which a pregnant woman anyway needs," says Dr Gupta.

#11 Pregnant mothers crave for pickles and ice cream

And here I was craving for some Nutella! Dr Gupta explains, "Mothers who crave for pickles are actually craving for salt. Additional minerals are particularly important in pregnancy. Similarly, pregnant mothers who crave for junk foods such as ice cream do so because junk food is associated with comfort. Sugar found in sweet foods cause the body to produce serotonin, which makes the mother feel good." But she explains that pregnancy cravings are not limited to just these two foods.

The bottomline is, eat well and have a healthy lifestyle but intelligently, and there will be absolutely no reason to worry. When you know the real reasons and science behind these myths it can all be taken in good humour. Listen to what the elderly aunt next door has to say, but don't necessarily follow that!

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Written by

Deepshikha Punj

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