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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.”


India,pregnancy,advice,myth,papaya,gheeNot 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!


India,pregnancy,advice,myth,papaya,gheeThen 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): ;; ;


Sources (Ayurveda and pregnancy): ; ;


God bless the Sun!

Last night there was yet another party in the streets. Walking home, along Juhu Beach, it was like going against the tide of human waves. Tiring. When you live in India, there are days you get to realize that there are really really a lot of people in this country... Those are the days you wonder if they never get tired of their religious histrionics... It never stops!


People should feel free to express themselves I know, but I am less convinced when the noise under my windows prevents me from sleeping... At the same time I must say the dog that "watches" the open garbage pit at the foot of my building and barks at the donkeys every night at 3 also prevents me from sleeping!

Anyway, no one asks for my opinion regarding festivals, their frequency and their level of nuisance! Adapt or die (or leave!)…


So yesterday it was Chhath Puja. A festival in honor of the God Sun (Surya). In short (apparently the rules are not the same everywhere, and it is mainly a North Indian festival), the devotees must fast for two days and on the morning of the second day, they make their offerings to the rising Sun.


Last night when I left office, people had started settling in to camp on the beach like that:

India,festival,hindu festival,hinduism,religion,Juhu beach,chhath puja,Surya,sun 

And this morning the scene was something like this (while I was sleeping): 

India,festival,hindu festival,hinduism,religion,Juhu beach,chhath puja,Surya,sun

India,festival,hindu festival,hinduism,religion,Juhu beach,chhath puja,Surya,sun

“Under a canopy of sugar cane sticks, clay elephants containing earthen lamps, and containers full of the offerings are placed. There the fire god is worshipped. The offerings characteristically consist of deep-fried and sweet rolls of stone ground wheat flour, grapefruit, whole coconuts, bananas, and grains of lentils. During the puja, these items are contained in small, semicircular pans woven out of bamboo strips called soop.”


More info here:


Yoga: between tradition and modernity

But my story with prenatal yoga did not stop there (see previous post)...

After two months of singing Om, putting my legs up on the wall, bouncing on my pregnancy ball, taking the Warrior position, and this three times a week, my dear teacher suddenly increased her fare by more than 50%. And she did not appreciate when I mentioned, when the car came back from the garage, how much it cost me and what I was I could expect from her.

From the beginning I made it clear that I would prefer if we kept the yoga lessons and the car thing separate. For her, two trial classes and a rebate on the 12 following sessions was enough of a compensation.

None of this was very important of course. But it may be enough to kill the vibe! And especially when you do yoga and relaxation it’s not cool...

So I resumed my prenatal yoga teacher search thinking I would do a 'benchmark' (see what other teachers out there have to offer and at what cost) and then decide what to do. An Indian woman of my ‘Mumbai mums’ Whatsap Group (there is no end to progress) suggested a name. Immediately I contacted her and signed for a trial class!

That’s how I met S., a woman in her forties, dressed with a salwar-kameez, quite fat, and without a yoga mat (and I am not talking about music). The contrast was striking: my current teacher is young and thin (which the partners of my new-mother friends who follow her classes do not really like: what can she possibly know of pregnancy?), model and bollywood actress during her free time. But let's not be judgmental, traditional can be good!

We therefore started by the usual questions: where am I from, what do I do, what does my husband do (?), for how long have we been married (??), where did he study (???). Huh?? Are these questions really necessary for a yoga class?

Then we started the exercises. I could have been in a sketch of Coluche (a French humorist):

“Up, down, up, down...

So now we'll move to the other eyelid.”

Rising up the left arm, rotation of the right foot. The whole time she is staring at me with a weird smile. I'd bet that she does not meet foreigners every day...

Three breaths through the nose and S. started blabbing again. Out of the blue, she went into a monologue about breast-feeding and without warning asked me: “Are your nipples out?” Luckily I was sitting...

“No. Because it is absolutely necessary that you breast-feed. And if your nipples are not out, you must pull them out every night and put a drop of oil if it hurts. Ask your gynec*.” And she did not stop there: “When you will be breast-feeding and tired, do not lie down on the side, you could smother your baby if you fall asleep.”

I could have end the class right there. To her dismay, I did not book for 12 classes, nor promise to continue... I had managed for 7 months to avoid awful stories on pregnancy and the rest, and it is not a yoga teacher who is going to change that! Especially if she doesn’t do what I paid her for: namely a yoga class!

It was therefore with great pleasure that I did my next class with my old young yoga teacher and her 'westernized' methods! Let's not 50 euros get in the way! I returned happily to my pregnancy ball and Kegel exercises (I like that, vaginal muscle contraction exercises, it reminds me an episod of Sex and the City I watched when I was around 15 (see this site)) that probably did not exist in S.’s century...

* PS: Seen with the gynec: pinching the nipples may actually cause contractions: the body understands the signal of breastfeeding, and since it's easier if the baby is out, it starts getting ready for the expulsion...

NB: We have a "traditional" (fat, salwar-kameez, no yoga mat, no music) teacher in office and she is excellent... And my first ashtanga teacher, very “modern” (slim, beautiful, active in music), did not teach me anything but positions (no explanations). So I'm not proving anything here, just sharing a story!!