Ayush Ministry’s booklet that advises pregnant women to abstain from sexual intercourse and non-vegetarian food has stirred up a debate.
Of the many beliefs and myths revolving around what pregnant women should and should not do, abstaining from non-vegetarian food and intercourse are the latest to go under the scanner. The Department of Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy (Ayush Ministry) recently advised pregnant ladies to eat no meat, have no sex, and think spiritual thoughts in its booklet, Mother and Child Care, which was distributed at an event to mark the run-up to Yoga Day.
With the suggestions stirring up a debate, we ask experts if non-vegetarian food and sexual intercourse during pregnancy can cause harm to women.
Chef Sanjeev Kapoor, author of Sanjeev Kapoor’s Cooking for Pregnant Women, says that most of the nutrition requirement during pregnancy can be fulfilled with vegetarian food as well. “Vegetarian food covers all the nutrient requirements that non-vegetarian food does. Vegetarian food is also easily digested. So, there’s no harm in opting for vegetarian food during pregnancy. Generally in India, chicken has a lot of antibiotics, the content of mercury and lead in seafood is also quite a lot, and when it comes to meat, there are issues related to its slaughter. So, maybe because of these issues, there have been suggestions of avoiding non-vegetarian food so as to avoid unnecessary hormonal or nutritional changes in the body,” he says.
However, he agrees that in his many years of experience, he hasn’t heard of any harmful effects of non-vegetarian food, but says it’s a matter of personal choice.
“Any food that you eat will give your body signals if it’s suitable for you or not. I suggest one takes one’s own test, and you would know what works the best for you,” he adds.
Agrees actor Tara Sharma, host of The Tara Sharma Show on parenting and maternal childcare. She feels one cannot generalise when it comes to making food choices. “While I haven’t ever heard of anything like this, I would still say to each their own. You should follow what works for you and consult your own doctors because everyone’s body and pregnancy issues can be different. Personally, I don’t think one can generalise at all,” she says.
Dr Vinita Salvi, author of The Pregnancy Handbook for Moms. terms the suggestion “complete nonsense”. She says, “Non-vegetarian food is an excellent source of protein and red meat is a rich source of iron. We should make sure that the food is hygienically prepared and properly cooked, be it vegetarian or non-vegetarian.”
About abstaining from sexual intercourse during pregnancy, she says, “It’s all a question of a person’s comfort level. If there are instances of risks such as preterm labour, then I would advise abstaining from sex. If there are no high-risk factors, then there is no problem in having sex during pregnancy,” says Dr Vinita.