All the things that you can’t do when you’re pregnant
Your doctor has confirmed it: there’s a tiny human currently forming inside your uterus. You’re elated that, in approximately nine months, you will be enjoying sleepless nights, incessant crying, and groggy attempts to coo at your adorable baby. But with the deluge of advice from Naani, Daadi and your mother’s khala, it seems that being pregnant means that life as you know it is over. “Beta, you can’t do this anymore,” says practically everyone with a finger wag, and a stern look. There’s an endless list of all the things that you should not be doing. “Really?” You think incredulously, ‘will climbing the stairs really endanger the little human inside me?’. From the patently ridiculous to the scientifically proven, Ms. T has got a breakdown of everything you can’t do when you’re expecting.
Daadi and Naani’s favourite pregnancy don’ts:
From your maasi to your waxing waali, everyone will be reminding you of these. We suggest you shrug, laugh and dismiss. No point in engaging in pointless debate here.
1. Don’t raise your arms above your head.
Want the umbilical cord to wrap around your baby’s neck? We didn’t think so either. Well, Daadi and Naani have just the trick to make sure this doesn’t happen. In the second trimester, do your best to make sure that you don’t raise your arms at all. So get daddy-to-be to get you your cereal from the top shelf, change the filters in the AC, and do any work that could potentially put the baby at harm. Just sit and point (without raising your arm), and let him know exactly what household chores need to get done.
2. Avoid sharp objects during a lunar eclipse
Your told you this the second you conceived. Then Naani confirmed it, and now even your neighbour’s maasi wants you to know: make sure you go nowhere near scissors, pruning shears, or a kitchen knife during a lunar eclipse. Every other woman you’ve consulted has sympathetically nodded her head. The risk can be catastrophic; your baby could be born with a defect. Worried that you may accidentally touch something sharp? We recommend you sit at home all day, and avoid looking at the moon and the sun during the day of the eclipse. Your boss will surely understand.
3. Stop drinking chocolate milk
Late night chocolate craving? Having trouble falling asleep? Don’t reach for a warm glass of chocolate milk! Daadi and Naani will surely disapprove — your baby (girl or boy) could end up with the dark skin that runs in the family (Have you seen those baby pictures of your bro-in-law?). Still can’t dismiss your craving for chocolate milk? Remember this: it’s going to be a while till the doctor approves you slathering whitening cream on your sweet, sweet princess.
4. Quit moving around so much!
Here’s what we’re envisioning: a tiny child growing inside of you. Sure, you can feel it kicking and jostling about, but don’t you think that it can feel you moving about? Do you think the little one hanging out in your womb appreciates it when you stretch out during your morning yoga? Have you wondered why he seems so active when you move into downward facing dog? Be kind to your unborn child! Smile coyly, and have your mother-in-law pick up the spoon that you ‘accidentally’ dropped during lunch.
Bending over isn’t the only thing we recommend giving up—make sure that you quit anything that causes immense physical exertion. Take down that exercise regimen taped to your wall (although you may need it to lose the baby weight), and realise that this is one of the few times in your life that everyone is allowing you to sit around doing nothing other than look pretty.
And a quick note for the hubbys: Ahem… you may want to lay off the bedroom activities for a little while. Daadi and Naani will tell you this at every possible moment, grinning slyly as they watch your face fall in disappointment.
Ms. T recommends that you take this advice with a grain of salt. Though Daadi and Naani definitely know best (and we find it’s not a great idea to argue with them), their theories haven’t necessarily been backed by medical science.
But Daadi and Naani aren’t the only ones shaking their heads in disapproval at every move you make. The docs too have got a formidable list of don’ts for you, and we’d advise you to listen more carefully to what they have to say. So here are…
The doctor’s pregnancy don’ts
1. Lay off the cigarettes
We’ve all heard it, smoking can kill. Smoking while pregnant is a definite no-no; when you inhale that cigarette, your baby ends up in a smoke-filled womb. And if we’re being totally honest, even you don’t really want to be surrounded by those noxious fumes. Add in the evidence that babies of moms that couldn’t quit are more likely to suffer from side-effects like sleep apnea, repeated ear infections, short stature, and possible long-term intellectual deficits, and you’ve got yourself a whopping argument to make a lifestyle change.
You may also want to have a chat with daddy-to-be about his ability to plough his way through a pack a day. If he’s incapable of lasting through those horrible withdrawal symptoms (well, nicotine is an addictive drug), make him take it outside, away from both you and the baby. While it may become impossible to get your friends to stop smoking, make sure that you clear tons of space between you and your unborn child when they are. The good news is that giving up the habit isn’t just good for your child, it’s excellent for you too.
2. Cut back on the caffeine
Though it’s true that most studies show that drinking three cups of coffee isn’t going to do something catastrophic to the foetus in your womb, there are a few reasons that your doctor (and every other advice-giving member in your family), is going to discourage you from indulging in your afternoon chai. For starters, caffeine is likely to give your baby attention deficit hyperactivity disorders and could result in him having some horrific migraines. Also remember that caffeine is a dierutic — it draws calcium and fluid away from the body, both of which are needed for foetal development.
If you’re an addict, and need to drink a coke or a chai to get you through the day, there are a few ways to keep the withdrawal symptoms at bay: eat frequently to keep your blood sugar up, get adequate sleep, and get your endorphins working for you by exercising.
3. Nix those sugar substitutes
Are you one of those girls who rips open four packets of Equal so that the achingly sweet taste of the artificial sweetener is more prominent than the flavor of your chai? You may want to nip that habit in the bud. While light to moderate use is probably A-ok, experts caution against using sweeteners like aspartame, sucralose, and mannitol. While there’s no definitive evidence that links the sweeteners to problems in foetal development, studies do show that the sweeteners often cross the placenta, and are eliminated from foetal tissue very slowly. As with many things in life, doctors agree that moderation is probably best.
If you’re worried that ingesting real sugar may make you gain flab, and if you’re already getting concerned about getting back down to your pre-baby weight, remember that studies show that artificial sweetners rarely do anything to help stave weight off. You might be better off developing a taste for brown sugar instead.
4. Forget about the fish
Okay, perhaps that’s hyperbolic. You don’t have to stop eating every fish in the seven seas while you’re pregnant, but you definitely need to avoid a few — any fish with a long life cycle could have been exposed to the kind of contaminants that would be bad for your baby. Give up the tuna, the king mackerel, and the sword fish; they’re high in mercury, which can have severe and lasting effects on your baby’s mental health and development.
Here’s the clincher though: studies have shown that eating foods high in omega-3 fatty acids (ironically found in most fish) could mean a smarter baby. Weigh the risks against the benefits, and make smart informed decisions about what seafood you’re eating. And as a last rule, stay away from the sushi – many fish used in your California rolls are high in mercury and should be avoided.
5. Learn to live with insects
We all think the idea of waking to a family of cockroaches at the foot of your bed is absolutely disgusting, but consider the alternative. While there’s no evidence that suggests having a run in with a few critters now and then is going to harm you, the pesticides that we often use to keep those insects at bay can. Long term exposure to pesticides has been linked to neural tube defects, and deformities of the heart and limbs.
If you know you’re in a place where insecticides are used commonly, take some precautions. Ventilate areas you frequent well, make sure that cupboards and drawers are sealed shut to avoid contamination, and scrub down food preparation areas super well.
6. Stay clear of the litter box
Actually, make sure you pass off all cat-related duties to your husband. Toxoplasmosis, a disease carried by many of our feline friends, can infect your unborn child. Although it’s unlikely that you have the disease if you’ve been around house cats for an extended period of time, it’s a good idea to stay away from anything having to do with cat faeces. Only about 1 in 10,000 babies is born with complications from the disease, but we recommend not taking any chances. Check to make sure that neither you nor your cats are carrying the parasite, and make daddy-to-be handle the litter box for the duration of the pregnancy.
7. Give up those decadent hot baths
We’re not saying that you need to cancel your evening plans in the bathtub with deliciously scented soapy bubbles — considering that you’re carrying another person inside you, getting an above-average amount of R&R is perfectly all-right. Just make sure that you’re paying attention to the temperature of your water before you submerge yourself into the tub. Experts conclude that high temperatures can be harmful to the fetus, or cause you to faint. Anything that could raise your body temperature to something above 102 degrees Farenheit (39 Celsius) is bad news bears for the baby, especially in the first few months. Also be wary of using a heating pad to soothe away the aches and pains of a long day — the device can raise your body temperature excessively.
Remember that pregnancy only lasts for about nine months, and while you may feel like an elephant, their gestational period lasts close to two years. Many of the resolutions you’re making for your baby’s health will be doubly beneficial to yours, and if nothing else, for the rest of your life you can lord these sacrifices over the baby’s head.
It seems like nine tenths of the advice you’re getting is all about the things you can’t do while pregnant. Don’t worry your pretty little head, Daadi and Naani compiled a list of the things you should for sure do while pregnant. The following points are a figment of our granny’s imagination and any resemblance to actual events is purely coincidental.
1. Drink as much laal sharbat as your stomach can handle
Want to give birth to a pretty pink princess? Well, laal sharbat can surely help you out, say Daadi and Naani. Instead of your regular chocolate milk, opt for the sickly sweet syrup in your milk. In one fell swoop, you can get your sugar fix and avoid the glares from your saas for having a dark-skinned child.
2. Put surma in your eyes every day
Forget all the evidence that points to your surma being contaminated with lead — it’s vital that you apply it once (twice, or even thrice!) a day so that your baby is born with ginormous peepers.
3. Use your pregnancy as an excuse to have as much desi ghee as humanly possible
Remember how the last time you made a cake you greased the bottom of the pan? Well, delivering a child is kind of like that, you want to make it as easy on yourself as you can. That’s where the ghee comes in. Have a tablespoon every morning in your third trimester — it’ll ensure that your baby slips out of the birth canal with ease.
4. Have conversations with the baby-to-be
Explain exactly what life is going to be like when she comes out of the womb — give her life lessons that she has no choice but to listen to. She is kind of trapped right?
Published in The Express Tribune, Ms T, October 21st, 2012.