A woman looks her best when she is pregnant because her inner happiness shines through, giving a glow to her face. The attentions and pampering of her husband, other family members and friends add to her radiant look. During this time she is besieged with well-meaning advices, suggestions and instructions about what she should and should not do during her pregnancy. Although some advices are scientifically sound, there are others that may sound absurd and ludicrous because they have been carried down over the years with each generation. Some of these myths gain strength if they co-incidentally turn out to be true. There are many myths in pregnancy in India that women still believe and are afraid to let go of the superstitions.
Myths # 1
You can tell the gender of the baby from the shape of your stomach – There is a popular belief that if your stomach is pointed and carrying your baby low, it would be a boy and if your stomach is round and carrying your baby high, it would be a girl. This is a myth because the shape of your abdomen, uterus, abdominal muscles, pelvic muscles and the position of your baby, is what determines the shape of your stomach. The gender of the baby is not the cause. When I was pregnant with my daughter, everyone thought it would be boy for the above reasons and I fell for it, but of course it was not the case.
Myth # 2
Your glowing face or a sickly face can tell you the gender of your baby – It is believed that if you have a glowing face, you will be blessed with a girl and if you face looks haggard and sickly, you will get a boy. This is of course absurd because your health during pregnancy can affect your skin and its texture. Frequent nausea can drain you in the initial months, making you feel listless and tired. Alternately, weight gain can also make you look healthy and glowing.
Myth # 3
If you experienced nausea during your 1st baby that was a girl and if you did not get nausea during your 2nd baby, then you would get a boy - This myth is so common that it has co-incidentally turned true for many women, reinforcing the belief. Well, I did not have any nausea during my first or second pregnancy and my first was a girl and the second was a boy. I wonder what I should make of that!
Myth # 4
Keep your pregnancy a secret for the first couple of months – women, especially elderly, who believe in the evil eye may advice to keep pregnancy a secret initially in order to protect yourself from any impending evil eye, which is ridiculous.
Myth # 5
Don’t exert yourself or do any kind of physical activity – this myth is more popular with the urban woman as opposed to a woman in a village where she works in the field until a few hours before childbirth. Urban women are ignorant of the benefits of exercises and choose to rest all the time, avoiding even housework. Although you must avoid strenuous work, you must do exercises that will benefit in making your pelvic and abdominal muscles more strong and flexible to make your childbirth easy and smooth.
Myth # 6
You must avoid certain fruits and spicy food - women are advised to avoid fruits like papayas, jackfruits, pineapples and mangoes as it is believed that they generate a lot of heat inside the body and may cause a miscarriage. Eating these fruits in moderation will not cause any harm to your baby, as they are rich in vitamins and minerals. However doctors believe that unripe papayas may trigger uterine contractions. Eggs and chicken are also believed to generate heat in the body and hence dangerous. This is a myth that is busted for sure because I had a huge craving for chicken during both my pregnancies and would eat it almost every day. Spicy food can cause heartburn, which is why you must eat them in moderation.
Myth # 7
If you have heart burn, it means your baby has thick hair and is tickling your ribs – I will admit I believed this myth when my sister-in-law told me that it was my baby’s hair that was the cause of heartburn during my pregnancy. As it was my first baby, I suppose I could be excused for believing it. I had discovered the true cause after talking to my doctor wherein he explained that consumption of spicy food could trigger heartburn (digestive problem).
Myth # 8
Drinking milk with saffron added to it will make your baby fair skinned – Skin tone is determined by your genes and not by saffron or anything like that. I tried this method for a few months when I was pregnant with my daughter and she is wheatish. So, it is just another old wives tale.
Myth # 9
If you sit for very long periods of time, your baby will have a flat head – This is such a silly superstition and one I succumbed to because my mother would not let me sit in one place for a long time. However, I am not sure if she had forbidden me because she had wanted me to have some physical activity.
I would advise all mothers-to-be to consult with their doctor for any doubts and not get swayed by these myths. Eat well, exercise well, sleep well and rest enough are the four golden rules for a smooth childbirth.