India is a vast country, with different beliefs, cultures and practices for different stages of life, and pregnancy traditions are no exception to this trend. In fact, the rural areas are less adaptive to new ways and tend to stick to their traditional practices.
I live in a semi-urban place in Uttar Pradesh, where people rely more on midwives than doctors, thus following their instructions and even following the diet they recommend during pregnancy.
When I was pregnant, my mother-in-law told me all about the importance of midwives and their instructions. She even hired a midwife for me, who was surprisingly knowledgeable and took good care of me in that phase.
With my personal experience, I learned that there was no reason to think that midwives are backward in their practices, or that they don’t adhere to scientific methods, while giving instructions to the potential mothers.
They are professionals too, and in this post, I am going to highlight some of these traditional prenatal care practices that are not only relevant but also beneficial for pregnant ladies.
The midwife forbade me to have raw papaya during my pregnancy. She said that it can trigger early labour, and cause miscarriage.
Scientific research also shows that the papain in unripe papaya is mistaken by the body as prostaglandin, which can initiate labour in pregnant women. She also asked me to avoid fruits like pumpkin, bitter gourd, sesame seeds, jackfruit, pineapple and more.
Moreover, she advised me to avoid anxiety and stress as much as possible by listening to good music, watching funny movies, and bonding with my friends and family members who cared about me.
I’ve heard that depression during pregnancy can extend to post-natal depression, in which a mother is unable to come to terms with her new life, and sometimes, prevents her from bonding with the baby.
Such cases are quite common in urban areas, where unhealthy lifestyles, lack of support and loneliness can play a significant role in causing depression.
I was also asked not to have hot, spicy foods, as I had a tendency of heartburn. They told me that my unborn baby would push stomach acids upwards, and spicy food would increase heartburn.
Some elder ladies in the family also recommended taking herbal medications during pregnancy. However, the midwife asked me to consult the doctor before taking such medications.
One of the most common traditional prenatal care practices that my midwife followed was not allowing me to lift heavy loads and ensuring that was someone with me always to remind me to avoid tasks that may harm the unborn child.
My midwife referred me to the doctor thrice during my pregnancy. Later, I learned that most professional midwives do that, just as in the case of professional prenatal care, where nurses and doctors work hand-in-hand to ensure a healthy pregnancy.
In rural India, a pregnant woman is exposed to all sorts of advice from her family members, elders, and even neighbours. Most of the time, they get confused by numerous contradictory opinions. It is then that the advice of a professional midwife comes really useful.
I can never forget how my midwife went out of her way sometimes to help me, and I am so grateful to her for taking care of me in the way she did.
So you see, prenatal care has always been there in India, just like pregnancy, but now, it is more professional than ever. Your gynaecologist is the best person to suggest prenatal care practices for you and your baby.
If you’re planning on having a baby, it is better to opt for professional prenatal care as early as possible.2