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What has bangles and silver got to do with pregnancy?

By Lakshmy Ramanathan
Last updated on: October 30, 2015 15:59 IST

An excerpt from For Bumpier Times: An Indian Mother's Guide to 101 Pregnancy & Childcare Practices written by Lakshmy Ramanathan.

In our homes, the arrival of a child is not very different from a wedding. Everyone has a say; a tip or two and a long list of do's and don'ts. But how can a first time mother decide what is best for her and her baby when practitioners of both age old wisdom and new age norms breathe down her bump?

In her book For Bumpier Times, Lakshmy Ramanathan attempts to capture the complexities of being pregnant in our society and to arm you with information that enables you to make empowered decisions.

Here's an excerpt:

I just had my godh bharai and have been told not to remove the bangles till the baby is born. But I find it embarrassing and cumbersome to wear so many bangles to work.

Wearing bangles when one is pregnant was insisted upon for two main reasons in the past:

One, the tinkling of bangles was (and is still) considered a good way to introduce the foetus to auditory experiences. Two, the sound made by the bangles drove away scorpions or snakes lurking near toilets situated in unkempt backyards of our ancestors' homes.

Some doctors insist that wearing bangles can also double up as an early warning system for pregnancy-induced hypertension (PIH). PIH can lead to an early detachment of the placenta, seizures in the mother (causing even death) and affect the growth/life of the foetus. One of its early signs is swelling (edema) of the limbs triggered by the sudden increase in blood pressure.

Doctors say that the moment the bangles feel tighter and begin to bite the skin of a pregnant woman's wrist, she should know that her limbs are beginning to swell. A visit to the doctor should be made to evaluate the situation and seek solutions if required. Swelling (especially of the feet and calves) is commonly experienced by women in the second half of the third trimester. Any swelling, however, should be shown to a doctor before being dismissed as routine.

Wearing a dozen bangles or more in each hand can prove a genuine hindrance if you are a part of any work field that requires constant use of hands and fingers. If you are not able to make your family members understand your point of view, remove them at work and slip them back on your way back home. This way, all parties (you, your baby, and the family) can benefit without unnecessary issues.

My help insists on squeezing my newborn baby's nipples every time she gives the baby a pre-bath massage. To my horror, I also saw my baby's nipples secrete tiny drops of milk. My maid claims that the milk should be squeezed out to ensure that the nipples don't grow out to be large and ugly.

First of all, stop the squeezing immediately. By doing so, you will be stimulating your baby's nipples to secrete more milk and grow further in size. Also, keep in mind that the growth of your child's breasts/nipples is bound to occur in phases – foetal, neonatal/pre-pubertal, and post-pubertal.

Secondly, the continual stimulation and exposure to a caregiver's hands (however clean they may be) can cause a localized infection along the baby's breast tissue. Every year, hospitals see many newborns coming in with a case of breast abscess. So, except for a quick massage and bath, a newborn's body is best left untouched for the first one month when it is busy trying to cope with its exit from the mother's womb.

When a baby does exit the mother's body, some of the maternal hormones get transferred into her/ his system. Male as well as female babies sometimes secrete tiny drops of milk from their nipples and also show breast tissue enlargement. Galactorrhoea which is sometimes referred to as witch's milk is caused by prolactin (the hormone that aids milk production) and other maternal hormones.

Girl babies have been known to show vaginal bleeding and discharge (pseudo menstruation) right after birth and most babies leak milk from their nipples for the first few days. Such symptoms indicate a temporary transfer or sharing of maternal hormones and are no cause for worry. They will disappear on their own and need no intervention.

I have heard so much about metal poisoning. Can I use silverware to feed my child?

Silverware is, in fact, very ideal for serving food to both children and invalids. This is because silver metal is oligodynamic by nature which allows it to kill several disease-causing microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi, virus, spores, etc.

In many Indian homes, newborns are fed their first solids (and meals thereafter) from silver cups and spoons. One can't know for certain if our ancestors used silverware as a sign of wealth or knew about the metal's pathogen-killing properties. But written records and accounts have shown that the use of silverware has been prevalent for several generations across the world.

 To this day, treatment of drinking water in many poor countries and modern purifying systems still involves the usage of silver salts. The metal's pathogen-killing property also finds use in surgical dressings and disinfectants.

Any apprehension over using silverware can be safely dismissed. The body can absorb silver only in the form of soluble salts and not in the form of the metal itself.

Lead image used only for representational purpose; Courtesy: Helen Taylor/Creative Commons

You can find a copy of the book here.

Excerpted with kind permission from the publisher Hay House

Lakshmy Ramanathan