Getting pregnant and giving birth are milestones in a woman’s life, and happy ones at that! And when you live in a country like India, that joy is multiplied manifold, when both sides of the family join in a common celebration. The more the merrier!
However, more people to celebrate also means more people who give you advice, and some of it seems to be steeped in superstition! If you’ve ever been pregnant in India, then it’s certain that you’ve heard your share of such ‘advice’! But when you hear many people repeat the same theories, it makes you wonder if there’s any truth in them – why else would everyone be advocating the same thing? Finding out the truth behind these can be challenging, but don’t worry – that’s what we are here for!
We have explained in detail about 15 common pregnancy myths and facts.
1. Your position during intercourse can affect the baby’s sex
Let’s begin at the beginning! Considering India’s obsession with the male child, it’s no wonder that people have come up with many ways to determine the result of something they have absolutely no control over! You can try any position you want – but besides the advantage of spicing things up, there really is no way to ensure that conception happens in the exact XX-XY combination that you want!
Verdict: Fun, but still Myth!
2. Don’t inform anyone of the pregnancy till the first trimester is over
This is a very common one, worldwide. The reason behind this is that there is a higher chance for a woman to have a miscarriage or spontaneous abortion during the first few months, so people don’t want to share their good news too soon. Some people argue that this is when a woman needs more social support, but to each one her own, we think. There’s also the fact that the longer people know you’re pregnant, the more advice you’ll have to hear!
Verdict: Fact, depending upon your circumstances and personality.
3. Pregnant women shouldn’t eat papaya; it can cause a miscarriage
Okay, this one is very popular in India! So much that some mothers in law completely ban all foods beginning with ‘p’ – pineapples, plums, peaches etc.! Papayas are said to contain a latex substance, which is more concentrated in unripe papayas. This latex may mimic human hormones that may trigger labor. Though you might need to eat a good deal of papaya to actually start labor, experts recommend sticking to ripe versions of the fruit.
Verdict: Partial fact, concerning unripe fruit only.
4. Consuming saffron during pregnancy will result in a fair-skinned child
After the gender of the new baby, what is the next thing Indians are obsessed with? Yes, it’s skin color! Mothers across the country feed their daughters and daughters in law milk flavored and colored with saffron, in the hopes that she’ll give birth to a fair child. Saffron helps to improve immunity, is rich in several vitamins and minerals and is also considered good for relaxation. But will it give fair skin? Sorry, but that isn’t one of its benefits!!
Verdict: Super myth, but good for general health!
5. If you’re glowing, it’s a boy
First of all, a ‘glow’ isn’t something that can be quantified or measured easily, so whether a person has an extra glow or not is debatable. It’s true that all the changes in your skin are because of hormones, but what kind of change depends largely on your skin type and your skin care routine. There is really no scientific connection between your ‘glow’ and the baby’s sex, as many new mothers will attest!
Verdict: Myth – and plain nonsense!
6. The ‘hang’ of your belly determines the baby’s sex
There really is no end to the superstitions concerning an unborn child’s gender, and not just in India! Apparently if the belly hangs low, it’s a boy, and higher up means a girl. Seriously? The way your belly hangs is dependent upon your skeletal structure, the strength of your muscles and the trimester you are in – the belly always hangs towards your due date.
Verdict: Myth, myth, myth!!
7. Pregnant women shouldn’t step outside in an eclipse
There are many horrifying things that allegedly happen to pregnant women who step out during an eclipse. It’s really hard to find any logical explanation for why this superstition began in the first place, but it’s probably about when people didn’t know much about eclipses and just took extra precautions. These days, most people don’t bother with eclipses, although there are still those who don’t take a risk!
Verdict: Ancient myth!
8. Pregnant women should avoid funerals and homes of the sick
Okay this one actually makes sense. While the superstitious will warn you of evil spirits, there are logical reasons behind these. Funerals and sick homes are depressing events and pregnant women are probably better kept away from such circumstances. Besides, these are crowded places, and especially sick homes can spread germs which might harm the fetus.
Verdict: Fact, due to different reasons though!
9. Pregnant women shouldn’t travel alone, especially in the final trimester
This is just common sense! If you’ve seen enough Hollywood movies, you know that a pregnant woman’s water can break just about any time! So its best not to drive or travel by yourself towards your due date and always have your hospital bag packed and ready. There, finally a superstition we can get behind!
10. Pregnant women should look at pictures of beautiful people or beautiful things
The superstition goes on to say that by doing so, your baby will be quite the looker. Well, the baby’s looks depends upon the games genetics play, so we’ll leave that. But surrounding yourself with beautiful objects does calm the mind and create a positive environment, which is definitely beneficial for the mother and baby. Explains why many women like a babymoon to a picturesque place!
11. If a pregnant woman is denied the food she craves, her baby will be born with a birthmark in the shape of that food
Wow. Now this one takes the cake for being so specific! We can all agree that if that were true, our babies would have chocolate/noodles/pizza/chips shaped marks on their bodies. This was probably started to scare dads-to-be into giving into their pregnant wives’ cravings, since a craving is usually the body’s way of letting you know that something’s missing in your diet. But a jalebi-shaped birthmark?
Verdict: Myth, of course!
12. Don’t buy anything for the baby before the birth
This is another superstition that isn’t restricted to India. Everyone knows the reason behind this one – during a time when infant mortality was very high, this rule spared women from the pain of looking at things bought for their deceased child. It doesn’t make sense nowadays anyway, considering that most of us live in nuclear families, and there is no way to shop for the baby right after delivery! Unless of course, you trust Dad to do 100% of the baby’s shopping!
Verdict: Myth really, unless you have a personal shopper you trust!
13. Don’t leave the baby’s or new mother’s clothes outside after sunset
In India, this probably makes sense. Newborns have very low immunity and their things need to be kept super clean. When you leave baby clothes outside in the dark, you never know what kind of insects or animals might get their hands on them. Same goes for the mother’s clothes since she is always in close proximity with the baby. Now, if you live in a place where there is absolutely no chance of this happening, then go ahead!
Verdict: Fact, depending upon where you live.
14. New mothers should drink only hot water
Again, this is a rule that was probably invented in the days before filtered and bottled water. It really doesn’t have any relevance today, and a new mother can drink water of any temperature that she pleases! The important thing is to stay hydrated, especially if she’s breast feeding her baby. Skip on the unhealthy soft drinks and opt for coconut water or fresh juices – at any temperature!
15. New mothers shouldn’t step out of the house or entertain for 40 days
A newborn baby’s immune system is underdeveloped and he is very vulnerable to infections in those initial weeks. A new mother is just recovering from the trauma of birth and is still getting used to her world having turned upside down. Considering these, a rest period of 40 days is ideal, as it avoids the spread of infection, helps Mom recover as well as gives the new mother and her baby a chance to bond in peace and settle down in a routine. But the trouble is when people take this as a ‘confinement period’ and completely ban them from going out, even for vaccinations and the like. Also, postpartum depression is a real thing, and new Moms could do with some company from close friends.
Verdict: Party true, if it is not imposed upon too strictly.
There are of course, many, many more traditions, with specific ones for different regions and communities. Some are fun, some are valid, some are silly and some are plain inconvenient. The best thing to do is to use your judgment and consider the baby’s and your welfare above everything else, even your nosey neighbors’ offended looks!