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Pregnancy is that special time in a woman's life, when she gets special attention from everyone. Even strangers on the road sometimes stop to enquire, "Which month?"
To add to that, we Indians have a special penchant for both speculation and superstition. "Hmmm, your tummy has not gotten that large, so...", "Your face is glowing, you will definitely have a..." -- the list of myths is endless.
We spoke with Dr Leena Patankar of Patankar Nursing Home, Pune, about some of these myths. Here, in random order, are some popular pregnancy beliefs:
Myth no 1: The shape and size of your belly can indicate your baby's gender.
Expert opinion: It is believed that a woman carrying a boy has a low belly, while a woman carrying a girl has a high belly. Some also say that women with small, round bellies are carrying a boy, while those with large bellies are carrying a girl. Gynaecologists like Dr Patankar on the other hand, say that the shape of your belly is determined by the original shape of your abdomen, the amount and distribution of the fat, the strength of the abdominal muscles, the number of babies conceived, the presentation and the position of the baby. In India, it is not legal to determine the sex of your baby beforehand. Hence, myths like these get a lot of attention
Myth no 2: The glow on your face indicates the sex of your baby.
Expert opinion: "Some believe a glow on the face indicates you will deliver a baby girl, while a lack of any glow indicates you will deliver a boy. Most pregnant women start sporting a glowing face during the second trimester. That's when the morning sickness ends, the mother-to-be eats well, blood circulation improves and there is a general feeling of well being. It has nothing to do with the sex of the baby," says Dr Patankar.
Myth no 3: Heartburn indicates that your baby will have lots of hair.
Expert opinion: Dr Patankar says that 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. A lot of women who deliver babies with thick hair experience practically no heartburn.
Myth no 4: When you're pregnant, you have to double your food intake, because you're eating for two.
Expert opinion: Dr Patankar pooh-poohs this idea. She says, "During pregnancy dietary demands definitely increase. The nutritional status of the mother is most important, however, as the baby is dependent on her for its supply of proteins, vitamins, and minerals. This does not mean that a pregnant woman should eat for two."
She suggests that a pregnant woman maintain a well-balanced, nutritious diet throughout her pregnancy. "She should eat small meals every two hours rather than two or three bulky portions a day. Eating in excess will only lead to increases in fat deposits," she says.
Myth no 5: Food cravings indicate that you are deficient in the nutrients that the specific food offers.
Expert opinion: "Food cravings are food cravings. They do not indicate anything," says Dr Patankar. "Do not take cravings as an indicator that you are deficient in any nutrient. Your doctor will have more solid methods of finding nutritional deficiencies."
Myth no 6: Sex during pregnancy induces labour.
Expert opinion: Many women swear by this theory. Check any pregnancy website, and there are women who openly advocate it. Of course, there are those who say it didn't work for them also. This is not to say do not have sex. If you are physically fit throughout your pregnancy, there is no reason why you should stop. Doctors merely ask couples to be careful about the position they adopt so that it does not cause discomfort to the mother.
Myth no 7: Methods of delivery are hereditary.
Expert opinion: People believe that if a pregnant woman's mother had a Caesarian section, she is likely to have the same. So, if your family has a history of normal deliveries, you are lucky. Dr Patankar says, "Mode of delivery has nothing to do with heredity. It depends on the number of babies conceived, presentation, as well as the position of the baby, the mother's pelvic bone structure and conditions, if any, complicating the pregnancy. Doctors make every effort possible for a normal delivery. Cesarean sections are only performed when absolutely necessary."
Myth no 8: You can't get pregnant as long as you are regularly breastfeeding your baby.
Expert opinion: Tell this to thousands of women who are now with their second child, while the older one is hardly a year of age, or less! Dr Patankar advises, "Always use some contraception to avoid an unwanted pregnancy. Breastfeeding is reliable only upto a certain period, about one-and-a-half months after the delivery. However, a woman can get pregnant even without getting the first menstrual cycle post-delivery, ie in lactational amenorrhea. There are many simple methods available for contraception. Choose the right one for yourself."
Myth no 9: Eating lots of ghee ensures you will have a normal and safe delivery.
Expert opinion: Your mother or mother-in-law probably says, "Ghee provides lubrication, therefore you must have lots of ghee to ensure a normal delivery."
While the medicinal value of ghee cannot be discounted, it is definitely not the elixir it is touted to be in this case. Says Dr Patankar, "No one can a predict normal delivery, not even doctors. Eating a lot of ghee does not ensure normal delivery. A pregnant woman should eat a normal healthy diet, do some form of exercise to keep herself fit and healthy, and should have a positive mindset while going in for the delivery. Even relatives should boost her confidence, and not pressurise her with regard to a normal delivery."
She also adds that Cesarean sections are not something to shy away from. They are only performed to save the life of the baby, and avoid health complications in the mother.
Myth no 10: Avoid using a computer while pregnant; it can harm your baby's development.
Expert opinion: "There is no evidence indicating that computers harm your baby's development. Of course, if you are working and are likely to use the computer for eight to 10 hours a day, you may face problems like backache. But that has no effect on your pregnancy!" says Dr Patankar.
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