Part 1: The unborn baby
As the story goes in the Mahabharata, after the passing of king Vichitravirya, Sage Vyasa was invited to bear an heir with the widowed queens, Ambika and Ambalika. Both of them were so aghast at the sight of the sage who hadn’t cleaned himself in years, Ambika shut her eyes tight and Ambalika became pale. The result impacted the destiny of the nation. Ambika’s son Dhritrashtra was born blind and Ambalika’s son Pandu was an albino child. Everything a mother does affects the child, beginning from before conception to the end of life.
The mother’s health during pregnancy is of prime importance. A healthy mother is the key to a healthy child. No formula could be simpler than that. In many countries, mothers lack basic health care which can lead the numbers of maternal mortality, fetal mortality, and infant mortality to be high. The recent maternal mortality according to 2021 statistics is 103 deaths per 1000 deliveries.
The period after conception is a sensitive one. It is difficult to know one is pregnant and therefore difficult to take precautions. There are factors called teratogens that can impair the development of the growing embryo. The next section outlines these teratogens which can lead to serious but preventable issues:
Alcohol and Drugs: Alcohol and drugs can cause severe damage from the first week of pregnancy to the last day of gestation. They directly affect the neural tube in the initial stages, which will become the spinal cord and the brain later on. In the later stages of pregnancy, it affects the Central Nervous System. Any damage to the Central Nervous System can cause cognitive impairments, memory disorders, and issues with balance and coordination.
Illness: Some diseases can create defects in the fetus. An attack of chickenpox in the earlier stages of pregnancy can lead to a rare disorder called varicella syndrome. If chickenpox occurs later on in the pregnancy, the baby can get the same after birth.
Medicine: With illnesses comes the topic of medication. During the entire pregnancy, an expecting mother should not take any medicine without the consultation of the gynecologist. Medicines can be dangerous for the embryo. Pain killers can stop the development of limbs if taken in the critical period of 20-26 days of fertilization. Thus, it is important to stay healthy and avoid medication altogether!
Age: A mother’s underage or overage can pose to be an issue. With underage, comes the risk of malnourishment and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), and overage can cause Cerebral Palsy and Down Syndrome. However, with artificial ways of conception, some of these problems can be ruled out.
There are many precautions an expecting mother needs to take. It is easier to focus on the dos rather than the don’ts. A well-rested, calm, and non-stressful pregnancy with simple and sattvic foods can do the magic of giving birth to a next-generation wonder. Motherhood is a blissful journey, even with all the ups and downs.
Wait for part 2 and walk the journey with us.