As soon as a woman becomes pregnant she starts being treated like a fragile being who might break if she does any work! This is unnecessary and turns a lovely time into one filled with unwarranted restrictions.
Every culture has its own myths and misconceptions associated with pregnancy. In this column and the next, I will be answering queries about these common worries.
- I am four months pregnant. I have low back pain in the evenings when I come back from work. I like to lie down flat on my back because it seems to give me great relief. My mother-in-law says I absolutely should not lie on my back. Is that true?
- That is not true at all. You can sleep in any position that you are comfortable in.
As your pregnancy progresses, the size of the uterus will become much bigger. As the uterus becomes heavier, it tends to press on the major vein that returns blood from your legs to your heart. If you lie on your back you may feel giddy or breathless. Therefore, in the last two or three months it might be better for you to try and sleep on your side, as much as possible. However, it feels good to be flat on your back when you are having low back pain, so lying on your back for a short while is fine.
Of course, when you are sleeping you cannot control what position you are in. If you wake up on your back, it is probably because you were uncomfortable on your side and when you were asleep you just changed position. This will not harm your baby in any way.
Women who develop high blood pressure in pregnancy are advised to sleep on their side. This is because the weight of the uterus on the major blood vessels sets off mechanisms that can aggravate the blood pressure.
- Is it true that when I turn while sleeping, I should sit up, turn to the other side and then only lie down again? My mother said that if I turned from side to side without doing that the baby’s umbilical cord would get twisted and affect my baby.
- This is a myth. We really cannot control what is going on inside the womb. Turning from side to side will not cause the cord to get knotted.
- I have a good job but have to travel almost an hour to work. I just found out that I am pregnant. My husband wants me to resign my job and take bed rest for the first three months of the pregnancy. Will I miscarry if I continue to work?
This is absolutely foolish. Your husband is mistaken in thinking that travelling long distance to work or working itself can make you miscarry. Travelling in an auto rickshaw, a bus or on bumpy roads cannot lead to a miscarriage.
If the pregnancy has formed normally, strenuous activity cannot lead to a miscarriage. On the other hand, if the pregnancy is abnormal and is destined to miscarry, no amount of bed rest can keep it safe. Of course, you will feel very sleepy and exhausted in the first two or three months of pregnancy. You can keep up your usual work schedule and rest whenever you get the time. Complete bed rest, however, leaves the woman feeling unwell and leads to unnecessary weight gain. There is no scientific basis for a pregnant woman to be advised complete bed rest in early pregnancy unless she has had some bleeding. In that case she will be asked to rest for a few days.
- My wife has just confirmed a pregnancy. She has the bad habit of running up the stairs. I have asked her to avoid climbing stairs and if she absolutely has to, then climb very slowly. She refuses to listen. Will this cause a miscarriage?
- I realise that you are concerned for your wife and the pregnancy, but in this case your concern is misplaced. Climbing stairs, even running up the stairs, will not cause a miscarriage. The more active your wife is, the better it is for her.
- My friend told me that she had missed her periods and suspecting a pregnancy she ate papaya because she did not want the pregnancy. I am three months pregnant and have a craving for papaya. Will this make me miscarry?
- There is an old wives’ tale that papaya, pineapple or mango can cause you to miscarry. This is absolutely untrue. Your friend must have had a delayed period but not due to a pregnancy. It was just coincidence that she got her periods after eating papaya. If she had just waited, she would have got her periods anyway!
You can eat papaya, pineapples or mangos. They will not cause your pregnancy any harm. Some people even think that sesame seed (til or ellu) can cause a miscarriage. Again, not true!
- My grandmother says I should not eat cold food like curds, cool drinks and ice cream because then my baby will catch a cold. Is this true?
- I am always amused by the number of myths surrounding food! There is no basis for what your grandmother says. Curds are a great source of protein and calcium. Eating or drinking cold stuff does not cause cold, a virus does. And anyway, the baby is safe inside the womb. It cannot catch a cold whatever you eat! Having said that, I would avoid ice creams and cool drinks because they are just empty calories and will make you put on unnecessary weight.