The government of India is reinventing prenatal care with bizarre advice to women: cut meats and eggs from their diets and lustful thoughts from their minds, the Associated Press reports.
The “health” notice has been condemned by doctors who say it is not just ridiculous but potentially dangerous in a country that is not known for its attentive care to maternal issues. Men still rule the Indian home, and women don’t always receive the health care they need when they need it.
India already has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world, a phenomenon that is attributed to malnutrition and anemia. UNICEF data states that out of every 100,000 pregnancies, 174 women die. The figure is 14 in the United States.
“The government is doling out unscientific and irrational advice, instead of ensuring that poor pregnant women get to eat a nutritious, high-protein diet,” gynecologist Arun Gadre told AP. Gadre works has an office in the city of Pune but practices in the countryside.
The government’s advice on meat, eggs and lust may be found in a state-produced brochure entitled “Mother and Child Care” that focuses more on Hindu doctrine than scientific study, apparently unaware that foods like eggs and meats — high in protein — are recommended during pregnancy. There is also no reason to believe that sexual activity should be curtailed, though the government dispenses advice to the contrary: saying “impure thoughts” should be replaced with a studied observance of baby pictures.
“Pregnant women should detach themselves from desire, anger, attachment, hatred and lust,” the booklet — released just last week — instructs. It was published by India’s Central Council for Research in Yoga and Naturopathy, which is government department that eschews a lot of contemporary medical data for alternative medicine theories.
There is even a traditional medicine minister who is avidly defending the document, saying it is replete with “wisdom accumulated over many centuries.” Shripad Naik says the part about sex and lust has been misinterpreted, advising he is not trying to forbid sex or pregnant women, just that the stop thinking about it.
“The booklet puts together relevant facts culled out from clinical practice in the fields of yoga and naturopathy,” he said in a statement.
The desire for meat and egg-free pregnancy is just the latest vegetarian public relations campaign from Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whose Hindu-nationalist government is attempting to foist a meat-free diet upon the entire country.
But the most recent advice has angered doctors in the country.
“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,” Gadre told AP. “This is absurd advice to be giving to pregnant women in a country like India.”