May 2016

'Motherhood is a significant responsibility'

Dr Anand Bang, Advisor - Health, Tata Trusts, answers readers’ questions on issues such as the dangers of early and late pregnancy, weaning of infants, and antenatal training to the family

Dr Anand Bang, Advisor - Health,
Tata Trusts

During weaning home-cooked nutritious food should be given, starting with liquid, semi-solid and then solid food. It is mostly found that weaning means giving biscuits, chocolates and similar junk food, which is a wrong practice completely. One should focus on small feeds multiple times, as well as diversity.

It is important to remember that habituation of the child to weaning and different foodstuffs can take time as the taste buds gradually adapt. Weaning should be the responsibility of the entire family, especially the father. There should also be unanimity amongst family members as to which foods to be given.

A significant concern is that women abstain from weaning after six months. This causes maternal depletion syndrome including vitamin deficiency, anemia, fatigue and reduced productivity. It also affects the children as they are habituated to suckling, which is an easy way of consuming food rather than the regular diet. This can lead to stunting of their growth, which is hazardous, considering that 85% of the brain growth occurs till two years of age.

Most urban women opt for late pregnancy these days. Does it have an effect on maternal and child health? In comparison, rural women have early pregnancies. Does it affect maternal and child health?

Motherhood is a significant responsibility. If there is early pregnancy then naturally the women is unprepared physically, socially, psychologically and economically. The height and weight of a young mother would be less, adversely affecting the weight of the baby, as the pre-pregnancy weight is directly related to the weight of the baby. If the mother is young, there are more chances of several maternal disorders and complications such as breastfeeding problems, toxemia of pregnancy, anemia and obstructed labour as the pelvis is smaller. Hence, there are more chances of post-partum morbidities including infection. Also, there are possibilities of postpartum anxiety and depression due to unpreparedness of the young mother.

On the other hand, in case of late pregnancy, especially after 35 years of age, there are more chances of Down's syndrome and possibilities of other congenital malformations. Chances of abortions are more as well as pregnancy-induced hypertension, placental insufficiency and intra-uterine growth retardation. As the age advances, the pelvic joints become rigid leading to higher chances of obstructed labour. Probability of premature delivery is also more due to higher chance of pregnancy-induced hypertension.

It is also important to note that the chances of ante-partum hemorrhage are more in both young and late pregnant women.

Why isn't there any mandatory training provided to a new mother in India unlike the West, on how to handle a newborn baby, how much to feed, when to feed, how to make the baby burp, how to bathe the baby, etc?

Ideally, there should be mandatory training! During antenatal checkups, several good private doctors do take the opportunity to provide the same. And the training should be imparted to not only the pregnant mothers, but also to the husband, mother-in-law and grandmother. The training should actually focus on responsible parenthood and aspects of both motherhood and fatherhood should be explained.

Which are the states where maternal and child mortality rates are high in India?

Please take a look at the latest Sample Registration System (SRS) figures, available freely on the SRS website.

Being strictly brought up on the rules of timely meals and "early to bed and early to rise", it's difficult to accept the lifestyle of the younger generation who eat and sleep at untimely hours. Does this lifestyle have any repercussions on health, say after 50 years?

There are no studies of the long-term consequences available on untimely hours of the newer generation. But disturbed rhythms of the body can result in several adverse effects.