Pregnancy advice, Indian style
At 6 weeks, my Indian gynaecologist (a dinosaur) confirmed the pregnancy and provided her first recommendations: “You immediately stop papaya. And also pineapple. Also you stop outside food for the next 6 weeks.”
Not that I eat papaya everyday but I don’t like being told I can’t do things! So I checked… There was only a study, conducted on rats, and here is what is says: “The results suggest that normal consumption of ripe papaya during pregnancy may not pose any significant danger. However, the unripe or semi-ripe papaya (which contains high concentration of the latex that produces marked uterine contractions) could be unsafe in pregnancy.” (source). As my new doctor puts it, you need to it kilos of papaya to maybe feel an effect, nothing to panic about after eating a slice at breakfast!
Then I informed my stock manager about the pregnancy and his first question was whether I had hanged a poster of cute babies on the wall? He was convinced of the method because he had hanged a poster of white babies and his daughter was of fair complexion! Careful not to have a Smurf pic on the wall!! When I laughed about it (in spite having seen a similar poster on my sister-in-law’s wall) I was told that having “having good looking or positive pictures on the wall can surely make me feel good which is great for overall pregnancy and well-being”. Later on, in the same vein, my favourite Indian asked me to read less thrillers and stop watching murder movies… Happy puppy will give birth to happy puppies!
A few weeks later, I visited a customer and her reaction was very spontaneous: “Oh you look even more beautiful! When is your baby girl due??” Seeing my face – how could she possibly have an information (the gender) that I didn’t?? – she explained that a glow on the face indicates you will deliver a baby girl. But glowing me also has a low, small and round belly, which would indicate a boy. So let’s see!
At work, I also get “healthy” advice: “you need to eat double as you eat for two”, “don’t take the stairs it may create a shock for the baby”, “what??? You are traveling by rickshaw, stop immediately! And by bike also, are you nuts??”. No wonder a lot of pregnant Indian women turn into elephants – which is the favourite topic of my new gynaecologist: the wonder of Indian mothers’ transformation during pregnancy versus Western women – her theory is that it has to be genetic. Which I am not convinced about since studies (source) state that “women in Western Europe gain 10-12 kg in weight compared with their counterparts in the developing world [India being included in the study] where the average weight gain is 7-9 kg”. Anyhow, she still shows no compassion when I put on an extra 100 gms!
I was not given the following advice but I found it very funny: “Drinking coconut water after the seventh month of pregnancy makes the baby’s head as large as the coconut.” Or “eating something white first thing in the morning will result in a fair-skinned baby.”
And, last but not least, when discussing these Indian myth with a French friend, she shared, roaring with laughter, that she had read that in villages, pregnant women eat ghee (clarified butter (pure butterfat left over after the milk solids and water are removed from butter) commonly used in Indian cooking) to lubricate the way out of the baby. I also found it very funny till the day my favourite Indian came home with ‘my’ ghee. And no, I didn’t laugh at his face because when he came home in the first trimester with my ‘tea’ (a disgusting ayurvedic potion called ‘Bhadradi Kashayam’) he practically saved my life and helped me overcome nausea all through the pregnancy. Plus he had taken up on him to give me a healthy diet and made salads, soups, juice etc. every day. So the minimum I could do was to take him seriously and do some research. I was not supposed to eat cooking ghee but a special ‘herbal’ ghee, like he has one for his joints (depending on the herbs, the ghee will deposit in different parts of the body). And not astronomical quantities like I had been told (which was to ruin all our efforts for me not to put on too much weight). So I have been taking one spoon daily of ‘Sukhaprasava Ghritham’. It is given in 7th and 8th month of pregnancy to ensure easy delivery of child.
Sources (pregnancy myths in India): http://www.babycenter.in/x1023025/is-it-safe-to-eat-papaya-ipapitai-during-pregnancy ;
http://www.thehealthsite.com/pregnancy/eating-ghee-will-make-your-baby-slide-out-easier-and-other-such-hilarious-indian-myths-busted/; http://wonderwoman.intoday.in/story/food-myths-in-pregnancy/1/84211.html ; http://www.rediff.com/getahead/2007/may/23preg.htm
Sources (Ayurveda and pregnancy): http://www.ayurvedaelements.com/articledivinedelivery.php ; http://ayurveda-foryou.com/women/garbhasanskar.html ; http://ayurmedinfo.com/2012/05/28/sukhaprasava-ghritham-benefits-dosage-side-effects-ingredients/