The day you get pregnant and even if you stay in a society where you might be staying alone with your husband, still as soon as pregnancy becomes a news, all your mother, mother in law, aunts and neighbours start talking about your diet, your clothes, how to sit, how to sleep, and a lot more things. There is a big list of DO’s and DON’Ts which is handed over to pregnant women. There is no scientific basis to these common myths of pregnancy, yet they have deep psychological effect on you. All this increases your tensions and mood swings. One can laugh at them and push them aside but even the most intellectual gets affected. My friend who herself is a doctor told me, I don't believe it from my heart, but they are elders and I thought that this restriction is not life-long, also they are experienced. So it is better to follow. If by any means, any problem occurs during or after delivery all would blame me. The most common question that I have been asked during these years by pregnant women has been, what to eat during pregnancy? and what do garam foods like egg, haldi, papaya do to pregnancy, can they lead to abortion, bleeding, preterm labour, abnormality in child. When you know the real reasons and science behind these myths it can all be taken in good humour. Listen to what everyone has to say specially, but don’t necessarily follow that!!
Myth No 1: One should not eat papayas, mangoes or pineapples because they may cause miscarriage. This is not true at all. Normal consumption of ripe papaya during pregnancy doesn’t pose any risk, ripe papaya has a very good source of Vitamin A. Unripe papaya on the other hand contains chymopapain, pineapple has an enzyme called bromelain, which when consumed in large quantities can cause uterine contractions. However, you would need to consume an unusually large amount of these fruits for the negative effects to show up. Both the fruits, when consumed in moderation have a range of health benefits during pregnancy.
Myth No 2: Myth also suggests that spicy foods eaten during pregnancy can burn the baby’s eyes, resulting in blindness. Spicy foods also have been blamed for abortions and the induction of labour. These myths aren’t real. Spicy foods can increase a pregnant woman’s risk of heartburn, so spicy food intake shouldn’t be much during pregnancy. As a doctor, rather I would suggest everyone not to consume spicy food daily, so the advice is nothing different in pregnancy.
Myth No 3: Another myth is about turmeric (haldi). Commonly used in Indian cuisine, this antioxidant-rich yellow substance has numerous scientifically proven benefits. For example, it’s been shown to improve joint pain, headaches, colds, helps in digestion, boosts immunity and more. It has got so many positives with almost none negatives.
Myth No 4: Garam products also consist our routine refreshments, tea and coffee. They should be consumed in moderation. One or two servings of caffeine a day has not been shown to cause any harm to a pregnant woman. How can any Indian survive without one cup of Chai? Also drinking chai leads to darkening of baby’s skin which has no scientific evidence.
Myth No 5: Nuts in pregnancy are the best source of nutrition, which as per our neighbourhood Ammas have to be avoided. Eating nuts during pregnancy may lead to improved cognitive ability in children, says the European Journal of Epidemiology (may 2019). Nuts are a rich source of vitamins and minerals and can be used as a healthy snack during pregnancy.
Myth No 6: Kesar(Saffron) in milk has two myths, some say its garam and some say having kesar helps the baby get fairer. Saffron is rich in antioxidants, it decreases mood swings and cramps during pregnancy. Just that u need to be aware from where it is bought and the quality needs to be good.
Myth No 7: Pregnant women cannot eat fish, eggs, meat during pregnancy as they can harm the foetus, is another big query. Meat, poultry, fish and eggs contain protein,B vitamins and iron needed in pregnancy. The developing foetus needs plenty of protein. Fish contains lot of omega -3 fatty acids, which can be very nutritious. Yes, raw eggs are definitely to be avoided because of chances of infection which may lead to diarrhoea, fever and abdominal cramping. Proteins are very essential for growth of foetus and placenta. So it is also important to identify other Indian rich foods that can be consumed by a vegetarian woman during pregnancy. For people who prefer vegetarian diet, soy products like tofu, paneer, sprouts contain good protein.
Myth No 8: On of the funniest myth I heard someone talking was, if coconut is eaten, uterus will become hard like it. The baby will have lot of hair on the body. And the list goes on and on.
Points to be noted my dear pregnant women are,
1. A healthy balanced diet having protein, fibre, carbohydrates, is important.A balanced diet paves the way for a healthy pregnancy and ensures the well-being of both the mother and the child. Staying conscious of what you eat not only helps you gain weight prudently but also helps with postpartum weight loss. There’s nothing like “eating for two”. Please don’t overeat, and choose nutrient-dense options such as lean proteins, fruits and vegetables and whole grains that give your unborn baby a strong, healthy start.
2. The meals need to spread out, as opposed to the usual 3 meals-a-day routine. Small meals every 3- 4 hours with a light snack in between is very useful. Remember not to skip meals or fast during pregnancy.
3. Abortion or miscarriage is nature’s way of preventing further growth of abnormal baby. Nothing u eat can lead to abortion.
4. Skin colour is genetic and no food can change that. Rather nothing you eat cause genetic defect in the baby ,no exercise, no travelling can lead to genetic changes in the baby.
5. Save your favourite junk food for a special occasion
6. Never argue with your mothers, aunts and mother in law. Take all the advice they give and for the final word please go to your doctor who can guide you through a healthy and happy pregnancy.
Diet in pregnancy is the most complex question with the simplest answer. Eat smart and sensible during pregnancy.