The importance of pregnancy care cannot be stressed enough. There are so many books and articles already written about it that the information available is often contradictory. Also, there are many people who depend on traditional practices and act against the advices of professionals. Dr Rangina Laikangbam (Shah), an obstetrician and laparoscopic gynecologist at Alka Hospital in Jawalakhel, Lalitpur, says it’s quite alarming how people don’t know even the basics of pregnancy care. “Despite a growing number of educated mothers, it’s astounding how far-removed they are from medically certified measures of pregnancy care,” she says. In a conversation with The Week, she shed light on some important matters. Excerpts:
What are the things one has to understand about pregnancy care?
Each pregnancy is different. It is unique to the individual so there really aren’t any hard and fast rules about pregnancy care. But there are pregnancy myths, especially prevalent in the Nepali culture, that have to be done away with. Consulting and visiting your gynecologist, at regular intervals, is a must. Also, prioritize personal hygiene over everything else. Act on your own judgment and not according to what people tell you to do. As a pregnant mother, only you will understand what’s going on in your body.
What are some of the things women ought to consider when planning to conceive?
People often assume that pregnancy care only entails prenatal and postnatal care but they couldn’t have been more wrong. If you are planning to conceive, you ought to take certain measures months in advance. A visit to your gynecologist is a must. A simple ultrasonography can show whether the uterus is positioned right, if the ovaries are intact and if the mother is healthy enough to conceive. Not considering these factors before conceiving may put you and your child at risk. Also, people believe that folic acid should be consumed after conceiving, but it should be regularly consumed three months prior to conception. Doing this will reduce chances of neural tube defects. Folic acid consumption also helps prevent cleft palates, a very common birth defect.
During postnatal care, what should a mother’s diet be like?
The following 45 days after birth is what we call the postpartum period. And it is this period where the approach to caring for both the mother and the child goes wrong. People tend to think that this is when the mother needs complete bed rest and has to be fed fatty and carbohydrate rich food. This is absolutely wrong. Mothers typically gain 15 to 20 kilos during pregnancy and if they don’t consume the right kind of food, losing the added weight later will be very difficult. What they need at this stage is high nutrient containing food. So, protein-rich food should be consumed as it helps in muscle ligament tightening. Eating consistently and appropriately is also the key to fast recovery.
Can you run us through some of the things people end up doing wrong?
Following baseless traditional practices which have no medical grounds against their better judgment and their doctor’s advice is very common. I recently delivered a renowned sports person’s child and before birth I noticed that her breath had a pungent odor. I asked her if she had brushed her teeth and she said that she hadn’t in months. Turned out, she was warned against brushing her teeth by the elder members in her family who told her that her gums might soften and her teeth may fall out. It alarms me that even educated people fall for these practices. Your hygiene is the most important thing during pregnancy and disregarding it can be hazardous. Oil massages are good as they help relax muscles. But there’s also a belief that a mother will catch cold if she takes a shower and that she shouldn’t get water on her surgical incisions. That, again, is baseless.
How can one ensure a safe pregnancy cycle?
You don’t have to go on a complete bed rest in the days following the birth of your child. You have to keep yourself active and move around frequently. Take short walks and do some light yoga (there are specific moves designed just for lactating mothers). These days doctors also instruct certain pelvic floor exercises as these will help tighten the loosened out body areas. Never miss a dose of your iron supplement or any doctor-prescribed nutrition supplements. Also, keep yourself hydrated as it will help lessen cramps and prevent constipation. Never stress eat, but eat in proper amounts and be mindful of what you’re eating. Never take the four meals (buffet size) a day route. Most importantly, listen to your gynecologist.