India's government has given a controversial health advice to women. It tells pregnant women to abstain from meat and lustful thoughts.
Booklet Advises Pregnant Women To Avoid Meat, Sex And Bad Company
A booklet for expectant mothers published by India's Central Council for Research in Yoga and Naturopathy tells women to avoid meat and sex during pregnancy.
It also encouraged women to be more spiritual, to avoid bad company, and to look at pictures of beautiful babies as this can supposedly benefit their unborn child.
"Pregnant women should detach themselves from desire, anger, attachment, hatred and lust," the booklet reads.
Medical professionals in India, however, raised concern over the advice on the booklet saying that this is not based on science and may even be dangerous to the health of both the mother and the child.
Doctors said that the government booklet "Mother and Child Care" is smacked of religious dogma and that it ignores medical evidence that pregnant women can safely engage in sexual contact and benefit from eating protein-rich meats.
Meat Essential For Combating Protein And Iron Deficiency In Pregnant Women
Malavika Sabharwal, a gynecologist and obstetrician at Apollo Healthcare Group, said that protein deficiency, malnutrition, and anemia are among the health concerns of pregnant women, and meats are good sources of protein and iron. Iron is also better absorbed when it comes from animal sources than from plant sources.
The U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has long warned about the dangers of iron deficiency in pregnant women.
"In pregnant women, [iron deficiency] increases the risk for a preterm delivery and delivering a low-birthweight baby," the CDC said. "Iron-deficiency anemia during the first two trimesters of pregnancy is associated with a twofold increased risk for preterm delivery and a threefold increased risk for delivering a low-birthweight baby."
Maternal Health In India
India already has a poor record with maternal health and it has one of the highest rates of maternal mortality globally. Malnutrition and anemia are considered as key factors behind high maternal mortality in India.
In 2015, 174 of every 100,000 pregnancies in the country resulted in the mother's death. The rate in China, by comparison, is 27 deaths per 100,000 pregnancies. In the United States, 14 of every 100,000 pregnancies end in mother's death.
Malnourished women are at higher risk of giving birth to underweight babies, who are then at risk of not growing to their full height and weight. A 2015 report by the UNICEF revealed that 48 percent of Indian children below 5 years old are stunted.
"This is a national shame. If the calories of expectant mothers are further reduced by asking them to shun meat and eggs, this situation will only worsen. This is absurd advice to be giving to pregnant women in a country like India," said gynecologist Arun Gadre.
'Wisdom Accumulated Over Many Centuries'
India's Department of Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy minister Shripad Naik defended the suggestions on the booklet.
"The booklet puts together relevant facts culled out from clinical practice in the fields of yoga and naturopathy. It also contains wisdom accumulated over many centuries of yogic practice," Naik said.