Myth #1: Eat for two, when pregnant.
Truth: The nutritional needs of an expectant mother certainly increase. But it does not call for eating for two. The principles of nutrition do not, under any circumstance, recommend hogging. The aim should be to eat a well-balanced diet to ensure health of both mother and foetus. Extra care should be taken to avert nutrient deficiencies (iron and folic acid) that are common during pregnancy. Supplements should be taken as per doctor’s advice.
Myth #2: Eating papaya during pregnancy leads to miscarriage.
Truth: Papaya is believed to be an abortifacient (a substance that causes abortion). The belief is so deep-rooted in the Indian culture that even the learned and well-informed keep away from papaya during pregnancy. Its because they do not want to take chances. Actually, it is only the unripe/semi-ripe green papaya that contains high concentrations of latex which mimics the action of labour-inducing hormones like oxytocin and prostaglandins. But as the papaya ripens the latex content decreases and it becomes safe for consumption. These facts were strengthened by a rat study published in the British Journal of Nutrition. So a pregnant mother can very well include ripe papaya in her diet, without causing any perils to the foetus. It might in fact mitigate heart burns or constipation which are common during pregnancy.
Myth #3: Saffron intake during gestation makes the to-be-born baby fair-skinned.
Truth: The skin colour of the baby is purely determined by genes and nothing else. It is a tradition in India to gift pregnant mothers with small boxes of saffron. Milk flavoured with a pinch of the powder or few of its strands are given to pregnant mothers, in the hope that it would make the baby light-skinned. Alas, what saffron does is improve the colour (and flavour) of just the dish and not that of the baby. If there is anybody who benefits from this purported claim of saffron, it is of course its seller – as such saffron is the most expensive spice in the world – as little as a gram costs anywhere between Rs.80 – 300.
Myth #4: Consumption of a lot of ghee during child-bearing phase eases delivery; consumption of a lot of ghee during postpartum period quickens healing of uterus.
Truth: These are the most outrageous food misconceptions associated with pregnancy. Funny that somebody even imagined child delivery to be like baking – grease the tray to facilitate easy release of the finished product. Ghee neither eases parturition nor helps in swift healing of uterus. Remember! ghee is saturated fat and its consumption in excess will only lead to undesirable body weight and subsequently other related ailments.
Myth #5: Eat well once water breaks or pain starts because you will not be given food for another few hours.
Truth: Eat or drink nothing once the water breaks or pain starts. In the words of the famous obstetrician and gynaecologist, Dr. Gita Arjun,
“When you are in active labour, it is best to avoid any solid food. As the cervix dilates, there is a tendency to vomit. Drink small amounts of water, buttermilk, milk or juices. You may be asked to have only sips of water or nothing at all, if the obstetrician suspects that you might require a Caesarean section. This will prevent you from having a full stomach if an emergency Caesarean section is decided upon. This makes it less risky to give you anaesthesia.”
If you want to pooh pooh other pregnancy food myths, share them in the comments; if you are one of those who has daringly broken a pregnancy food myth and survived a full-fledged, healthy pregnancy, share your success story with the readers; if you have been a victim of such myths and left to pathetically crave for some of the so called forbidden foods all through pregnancy, vent your feelings here.