Pregnancy: Should I eat for two, and other myths explained

There are several rituals related to pregnancy and postpartum. Most are harmless and have been followed as a tradition. Families often follow these rituals strictly and some such as 'rest’ for the mother and 'infant massage' have a sound scientific basis in enhancing maternal and infant health.

However, carried to an extreme, some rituals and practices may influence maternal and infant health adversely.

Myth: Excess consumption of water in the postpartum is harmful.

Fact: The body needs water in the postpartum period to avoid constipation and to prevent piles. It also helps in better lactation. Lack of water in the body may lead to serious neurological conditions which may also manifest as a psychosis or delirium.

Myth: Women should eat food that is sufficient for two people.

Fact: Some women believe that this statement is more to do with some new mothers who experience excess hunger. Yet, experts suggest that a mother should eat balanced diet and have sufficient exercise to avoid gaining weight, that may lead to further health complications.

Myth: Only food that is white in color and bland should be consumed by the pregnant woman, as 'dark foods' are said to affect the baby's skin color.

Fact: The color of the food has nothing to do with the baby's skin color. But experts support the fact that excessive spicy food can lead to acidity in new mothers.     

Myth: In some cultures, women are given betel leaf and chuna (limestone) after delivery.

Fact: Limestone that is in the form of chuna contains calcium, which is considered good for the health of the mother. Experts suggest that it is a good practice if given in moderation.

Myth: Pregnant women should avoid going out after 6 pm because an evil spirit might possess the mother and baby.

Fact: There is no scientific evidence to support this statement.

Myth: The ritual of baby shower (Seemantha/Godh Bharai) in the seventh month of pregnancy is said to help the baby in better hearing.

Myth: During baby shower, mother will be offered glass bangles which helps the baby for better reflexes.

Fact: There is no scientific evidence to prove the relationship between baby shower ritual and baby's health. The ritual is more for the mother to feel happy and for her wellbeing.

Myth: Tying scarves around the head helps avoid infection, and a cloth around the belly helps the mother avoid drooping of pelvic floor.  

Fact: Tying scarves tightly around the head may obstruct the blood circulation near the neck which can be dangerous. Also, tying a belt around the belly will not help in toning of pelvic muscles. Pelvic floor exercises and Kegel exercises (http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/womens-health/in-depth/kegel-exercises/art-20045283) can help toning of pelvic floor muscles.

It is advisable to consult with your obstetrician/gynecologist before following any strict rituals about pregnancy, specially those that involves your health.