Taboos and superstitions for Pregnant Women

Taboo food and drink are food and beverages, which people abstain from consuming because of a religious or cultural prohibition. Many food taboos forbid the meat of a particular animal, including mammals, rodents, reptiles, amphibians, bony fish, mollusks and crustaceans. Some taboos are specific to a particular part or excretion of an animal, while other taboos forgo the consumption of plants, fungi or insects. An ecological or medical background is apparent for many, including some seen as religious or spiritual in origin. On the one hand food taboos can help utilizing a resource more efficiently; on the other it can lead to the protection of a resource.
Taboo food

Pregnancy imposes the need for considerable extra calorie and nutrient requirements. A balanced and adequate diet is very important during pregnancy and lactation to meet the increased needs of the mother, and to prevent “nutritional stress. Various studies show that pregnant women are abstained from nutritious foods as a part of their traditional food habits. There is a need of nutrition education and awareness generation among all stratas of population. More research is required on food misconceptions about food in pregnancy considering cultural backgrounds.

Avoided fruits / vegetables during pregnancy in India

• Papaya
• Mango
• Jack fruit
• Pineapple
• Banana
• Grape
• Guava
• Green leafy vegetables

The food is classified into two categories as Hot and Cold. Hot food items are avoided during pregnancy as it is thought that it will cause abortion. Cold food items are avoided during lactation period as it might affect the quality and quantity of milk production.

Misconception of consumption of food and superstition

• The main constituents of papaya latex are papain and chymopapain. A fully ripe papaya contains very little or a negligible quantity of the latex which will not provoke uterine contractions, so it can be eaten. The unripe or semi ripe papaya contains high concentration of latex that produces marked uterine contractions, may have an adverse effect during pregnancy and should be avoided.
• Consumption of saffron by pregnant woman results in a fairer skin child. The study shows that saffron may reduce blood pressure & mood swings, improve digestion and increase appetite of pregnant woman if it taken in small quantity.
• Any twin fruits or vegetables such as banana, mango, cucumber, any fruit or vegetable, which are attached to each other by default, are not to be eaten by a pregnant woman. Tripuris (People living in Tripura, India) consider that the eating of such twin fruits will cause twin pregnancy.
• A pregnant woman is refrain from hard work, exercise and lifting of heavy objects for the well being of both baby and mother.
• In Cambodia, a woman who dies in childbirth – crosses the river (chhlong tonle) in Khmer is believed to become an evil spirit.
• Pregnant women cannot participate in marriage ceremonies or arrangements, visit sick acquaintances, or sacrifice to gods (Dong Religion)
• Pregnant women should not watch new houses being built. (Dong Religion)
• The real cause of pregnancy is always a baloma, who is inserted into or enters the body of a woman, and without whose existence a woman could not become pregnant; all babies are made or come into existence (ibubulisi) in Tuma. (Trobriand Islands)
• 10 % of all pregnancy and childbirth related deaths are due to eclampsia or convulsion. Eclampsia is caused by and also known as toxemia of pregnancy. The Convulsions or fits are often misinterpreted as spirit possession. Religious medicine practitioners give burns and made pregnant these pregnant women undergo rituals that are demeaning, dehumanizing and life threatening.
• Pregnant women should not take baths. Only if water is broken one should NOT take a bath, as uterus is then vulnerable to infection. Avoid sitting in hot tub above 100 degrees temperature.
• Holding hands above head can hurt baby, as the umbilical cord will wrap around the baby’s neck.
• Drink lot of water for clean baby. Amniotic fluid around baby replenishes every three hours. This has nothing to do with drinking lot of water.
• If woman has Heartburn during pregnancy the baby has a lot of hair. Less room in stomach causes the heartburn as baby is growing and pushing it.
• If the pregnant woman eats fish, her child will be born with scales. (Chinese)
• Pregnant woman should avoid scissors near the marital bed. It will affect the baby in womb and baby will born with missing or incomplete. Anything such as drilling, hammering, chopping, sawing could lead to abortion or fetal deformities.
• Pregnant woman should not see sun or moon eclipse otherwise deformed baby would be born.
• Eating dog meat during pregnancy causes birth defects, miscarriage, may lead a difficult labor, child may bite mother during feeding.
• Eating crab will cause a difficult labor in which the baby is born sideways. The baby will drool with bubbles coming out of its mouth.
• Eating soft-shelled turtle will cause baby born with short neck.
• Eating plum and pear will make child blind.


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