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India’s Advice For Pregnant Women Includes No Meat And No Sex

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India’s government is facing ridicule and criticism after it advised pregnant women to refrain from eating meat and eggs, and abstain from sex and lusty thoughts.

Health experts and doctors say that this advice is a joke and may even be dangerous, especially since India has a poor record when it comes to maternal health, ABC News reports. Women are frequently the last to eat or get health care, as India has a strong patriarchal society.

Malnutrition and anemia, or iron deficiency, are the biggest causes behind the country’s maternal mortality rate – one of the highest in the world – with 174 out of 100,000 pregnancies resulting in the mother’s death in 2015 alone. Five years ago, the mortality rate was 205 deaths per 100,000 live births, according to UNICEF.

Arun Gadre, a gynecologist in Pune in western India, said,

The government is doling out unscientific and irrational advice, instead of ensuring that poor pregnant women get to eat a nutritious, high-protein diet.

A government booklet entitled “Mother and Child Care” leans heavily on religious dogma, and nullifies the fact that pregnant women benefit greatly from eating protein-rich meats and can safely have sexual intercourse.

Instead, the booklet says pregnant women should block out “impure thoughts” and look at photos of beautiful babies for the sake of their unborn children. Released by the Central Council for Research in Yoga and Naturopathy, the booklet stated, “Pregnant women should detach themselves from desire, anger, attachment, hatred and lust.”

The council, an arm of the government’s ministry that promotes traditional and alternative healing, defended the booklet as having “wisdom accumulated over many centuries.” Shripad Naik, the traditional medicine minister, said, “The booklet puts together relevant facts culled out from clinical practice in the fields of yoga and naturopathy.”

On the bright side, the booklet’s advice is not likely to be followed by the rest of the government health centers in India, which are operated by the Health Ministry. The Health Ministry has consistently clashed with the traditional medicine ministry as the former practices more scientific methods.

Gadre pointed out, “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.” He said, “This kind of advice is detrimental to women’s health.”

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