Recently, a booklet by the Department for Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy advised expecting women to avoid eating meat, eggs and non-vegetarian food, and to say no to sex during pregnancy in order to have a health baby. Any Indian woman who has been pregnant can rattle off a series of weird suggestions and tips given to them by well-meaning relatives, friends and just about anyone, mostly without any medical basis. We asked Indian women about the most ridiculous advice they've been given. Sadly, the answers reflect deeply-held prejudices about gender and skin colour.
Advice for having a 'fair child'
1. "Don't have coffee, or your kid will be dark. I had coffee anyway, and my daughter is fair. Doctors only say that you shouldn't have more than 200 mg of coffee a day because it can result in babies having low birth weight" -- Nandita Malhotra, Mumbai
2. Don't have baigan ka bharta, or your child will be dark.
3. Eat coconut and mishri in the morning to have a fair chid.
4. Drink coconut water everyday to have a fair child.
5. "My domestic help told me to have white foods in the morning to have a fair child." -- Ruchita Makhija, Mumbai
6. Drink a glass of milk every morning to have a fair baby.
Advice for having a boy
1. "Everybody looked at my face and said you look tired, the glow is missing so you're going to have a male child." -- Rachna, Kolkata
2. If you eat the flower of a coconut after conceiving, you will have a boy.
Advice for having a 'healthy child'
1. "Everyone, including my doctor, told me to eat a lot of desi ghee, especially during the third trimester. They said it can can result in an easier delivery and helps the baby come out more smoothly. It didn't work." -- Kunja Arora, Delhi
2. "I was not allowed to have papaya. Everyone believes that papaya is heat-inducing and can cause a miscarriage. In fact, doctors say it is only unsafe to eat raw papaya during pregnancy as it contains a latex substance that can cause contractions in the uterus. It is safe to eat ripe papaya. " -- Rachna Banerjee, Kolkata
3. "Read the biographies of saints and great people like Vivekananda. If you imbibe their great teachings, you pass it down to their womb." -- Jaya Chatterjee, Kolkata
4. Tie your hair when you go outside, in order to stay away from evil spirits.
5. Don't go out during a solar eclipse, as it may lead to an early delivery or cause deformities.
6. Don't expose your belly when going out, because a 'buri nazar' can have a negative effect on the baby.
7. Don't scratch your tummy, or your child will be bald.
8. Don't eat Chinese food since it contains ajinomoto which is bad for the baby.
9. "Eat for two. It was a complete myth. People fear that your appetite will fall because of nausea, and reduce your food intake, so you should eat double the amount of food you normally do." -- Rama Chakravarti, Delhi.
10. Don't fight with your husband and anyone for that matter, because it can have a negative effect on the fetus.
(Names changed on request)