‘Giving birth and being born brings us into the essence of creation, where the human spirit is courageous and bold and the body, a miracle of wisdom.’
It’s a universal fact that we have all come into existence inside the body of a woman. As Adrienne Rich says, ‘We are all born of women’. Pregnancy is a wonderful phase because it gives a woman the joy and fulfilment emanating from the sense of bringing a new life into the world. When a woman is pregnant, her body undergoes a number of changes, from physical to emotional. There’s an umbilical knot between the mother and her baby as anything that affects the mother also affects the child. Even suckling infants cannot escape from the slightest of changes in the mother’s health. So, the mother should remain physically and emotionally strong and have a cheerful and relaxed disposition during this phase of her womanhood. She should keep close watch on her body, behaviour, and environment so that the child bears no ill imprint in the formative phase of life.
Once upon a time, a mother was asked why her child was crying so much. She bemoaned, ‘When this child was in my womb, his father harassed me and made me cry all the time. This has affected my child as well.” Among the Arabs, even in the age of barbarity (Jahaliyat), pregnant women were comforted and cared for throughout the pregnancy. Simone de Beauvoir argued famously in her 1949 book, The Second Sex, that the experiential life of women must be fully integrated within the purview of phenomenology. Beauvoir described pregnancy from the societal point of view as being hostile to women, as something ‘ensnared by nature’. Hannah Arendt in her book The Human Condition (1958) took a view opposite to that of her former teacher, Martin Heidegger, whose focus was mainly on Dasein’s ‘being towards death’. Arendt encouraged ‘natality’ as a basic idea for understanding human life. She said that all three ‘fundamental human activities’—labour, work, and action—are ‘rooted in natality’. Julia Kristeva argues that unleashing the philosophical wonders of creation, which through labour and pain belong to pregnancy, brings thinking closer to the crucial aspects of life. Kristeva developed a new kind of reconfiguring of ethics called herethics. Nelson Maldonado-Torres while describing the importance of pregnancy in the political and philosophical realms says that the ‘paradigm of war’ can be changed ‘by paying attention to pregnancy as an important link for enriching our understanding of politics, intersubjectivity and ethics.’
Dietary and Workout Charts
Nutrition: A safe, nutritious diet during pregnancy is important to enhance the optimum growth of the foetus and also of the physiological changes occurring in the mother. Fundamental precepts of healthy dietary habits during pregnancy include eating foods that contain sufficient amounts of energy as well as macro and micro nutrients, maintaining adequate weight gain, adhering to general and pregnancy-specific food safety standards, and preventing consumption of harmful substances. Research has found that if these habits are not embraced, there is an increased chance of negative pregnancy outcomes, including low birth weight, preeclampsia, pre-birth defects, and neurological diseases. Most women are aware that good nutrition is important during pregnancy, but women may lack knowledge of particular dietary recommendations or that they may not have the resources needed to improve their diet. Healthy eating can also be difficult during breastfeeding as women face obstacles such as food avoidance, cravings, diarrhoea, fatigue, tiredness, constipation, haemorrhoids, and heartburn.
Exercise: Pregnancy is a period associated with major physiological and psychological changes that can encourage sedentary behaviour and/or reduced rates of physical exertion. Such habits have been associated with increased risk of gestational diabetes, pregnancy-induced hypertension, high gestational weight gain, and long-term risk of obesity development, Type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Exercise during pregnancy is safe and does not increase the risk of preterm birth. In addition, research has found that women who exercised during pregnancy were less likely to have a C-section than those who did not. This study was published in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology.
More fat during the pregnancy means it is difficult to work out, so there should be a measured balance between the two. Water workout — whether it’s swimming laps or doing aqua aerobics— helps relieve discomfort and stress (especially in the third trimester) and increases mobility and stamina. The best part of it is no matter which weight category you are in, you’re going to feel weightless in the water. Regular pregnancy exercise also helps keep you healthy through breastfeeding and can boost your ability to cope with labour complications. It will make it easier for you to get back in shape after your child is born.
Tailpiece: Pregnancy and related hormonal changes can have a significant impact on mothers-to-be and their mental health. It’s common for pregnant women to feel a wide spectrum of feelings, from happiness and anticipation to anxiety and mood swings. Paying attention to some mental and psychological changes before and during pregnancy will help keep the mother and infant safe and healthy. New or soon-to-be mothers and their relatives should be more cautious and aware of arousals of fear, constant depression, or other signs that may recur in her. Lastly, pregnancy always cannot be seen in the medicalised lexicon as it has more to do with the ‘being’ and ‘freedom’ of a mother. There should be more compassion, emotional support and caring atmosphere around during this period.
The writer is a research scholar in Life Sciences