Bringing baby along

NINE MONTHS' NOTICE

Pregnancy, a wonderful natural phenomenon, is often associated with myths and misconceptions. Many people inundate pregnant women with conflicting advices, leaving them confused. Here are some tips to help you make better choices:

Myth: Eating ghee or oil will help the baby slide out from the vagina during labour.

Fact: Ghee or oil does not help the baby slide out easily in any way. All they do is add a whole lot of calories to your body, which becomes difficult to shed once the baby is born. Refrain from eating piles of fatty food; eat a healthy, balanced meal.

Myth: Pregnant women need to double their food quantity, as they are eating for two people.

Fact: You do not have to double the quantity of food. Your body becomes more efficient when you’re pregnant, and makes better use of the energy you get from your food. This means you don’t actually need any extra calories for the first six months of pregnancy. Then you only need about 200 extra calories per day for the last three months.

Two hundred calories is equivalent to approximately a glass of milk and a piece of toast. The healthier options you choose, the better it is. Pregnant women need extra nutrition from all food groups and not just fat.

Myth: Salt will make you swell up.

Fact: Salt is an essential nutrient, even when you are pregnant. It should not be removed from your diet to prevent swelling. Some swelling in pregnancy is normal; but if your swelling is continuous, you may want to consider the other foods you are eating to be sure you are getting enough protein and water. Also, take a serious look at the amount of time you are giving yourself to rest. Rule of thumb: Salt your food to taste.

Myth: Stress during pregnancy is always bad for the foetus.

Fact: New research shows that a moderate level of stress is actually good for the
foetus. It tones the foetus’ nervous system and accelerates its development. Women who experience moderate stress during pregnancy have two-week-old infants with brains that work at a faster speed and two-year-old toddlers with higher motor and mental development scores than infants of mothers without the same stress.

Myth: Pregnant women should avoid exercise.

Fact: Actually, when a pregnant woman exercises, her foetus gets a beneficial
workout too. Research shows that the foetuses of pregnant women who are
physically active, have heart rates that are slower and more variable; both signs of cardiovascular health. Exercise also helps keep you fit and facilitates easy childbirth.

Myth: Heartburn indicates that your baby will have lots of hair.

Fact: Heartburn is a common pregnancy complaint. It is mainly because of reflux oesophagitis, during which the contents (food particles) of the stomach come back up the food pipe. Due to the acidic nature of the content, it causes burning, which is commonly known as heartburn. That is the only significance of heartburn.

Myth: Taking saffron with milk will make the baby fair.

Fact: Although certain naturopaths and herbalists claim that saffron lightens skin tone, there is no real proof that it can make your baby’s skin fair. The colour of your baby’s skin is determined by hereditary factors and genes.

Myth: You need to watch your weight carefully.

Fact: The amount of weight you gain says nothing about your overall health. You can gain a lot of weight eating junk food, or you can gain a lot of weight eating the right amount of healthy foods. To avoid problems during pregnancy, pay less attention to the scale, and more attention to the foods you are eating. Keep a list of everything you eat for a couple days, look over the list and see how your eating has come along. If you need to make changes, do so. The scale can never tell you if you are eating well.

Myth: The baby will just take what it needs from you.

Fact: Your baby is being built from protein, a nutrient that your body uses to build
tissues, but does not store extra quantities for use in building your baby. If you are not eating adequate protein, your health will suffer as your body begins to break down your tissues (muscle) to feed the baby. The only source of protein your baby has is from the food you eat.

Myth: A low-fat diet will help keep the extra weight off.

Fact: Fat is essential to your body’s metabolism of water-soluble vitamins; it is not the enemy. Fat is no more the culprit for making you overweight than carbohydrates or proteins are. The problem is not that it is eaten, but that too much is eaten. Too much food of any type will be stored by your body for later use as fat. Low-fat diets can be extremely dangerous in pregnancy because most foods considered ‘fatty’ are good sources of protein, such as eggs and meat. A diet low in protein foods is dangerous in pregnancy.

You could also follow some healthy dietary routines such as:

Eating good quality protein. Mix dal with green vegetables like palak to make a healthy and wholesome dish.

Try a mixed vegetable soup, or chicken soup with vegetables.

Some mothers have cravings during pregnancy. They normally set in when the meals aren’t balanced. Once you start eating healthy at the right time, they will decrease. An Indian thali is well-balanced as it incorporates different flavours like salty, sweet, spicy, pungent and the like. When all the different taste buds are satisfied, the cravings decline.

(The author is consultant, bstetrics and gynecology, Narayana Multispecialty Hospital,
Bangalore)

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