A Guide to Health/Part 2/Chapter 8

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A Guide to Health  (1921) 
Mohandas K. Gandhi, translated by A. Rama Iyer
Maternity and Child-Birth
S. Ganesan pages 117-121

Chapter VIII

MATERNITY AND CHILD-BIRTH

Our object in the fore-going chapters has been to point out the unity of origin and treatment of some of the more common diseases. We are, indeed, fully aware that those who are the constant victims of disease, and who are constantly oppressed by the fear of death, will still continue to put themselves at the mercy of doctors, in spite of all that we might say against it. We venture to think, however, that there would be at least a few who are willing to cure themselves of their diseases by purely natural processes, so as to save themselves from all further attacks; and such persons would surely find it worth while to follow the simple directions we have given. Before concluding this book, we will also give a few hints on maternity and the care of the child, as well as some common accidents.

In the lower orders of the animal creation, the pangs of child-birth are altogether unknown. The same should really be the case with perfectly healthy women. In fact, most women in the country regard child-birth as quite an ordinary matter; they continue to do their normal work till almost the last moment, and experience hardly any pain at the time of delivery. Women employed in labour have also been known to be able very often to return to work almost immediately after child-birth.

How comes it, then, that women in towns and cities have to endure so much pain and suffering at the time of child-birth? And why is it that they have to receive special treatment before and after the delivery?

The answer is simple and obvious. The women in towns have to lead an unnatural life. Their food, their costume, their mode of life, in general, offend against the natural laws of healthy living. Further, besides becoming pregnant at a pemature age, they are the sad victims of men's lust even after pregnancy, as well as immediately after child-birth, so that conception again takes place at too short an interval. This is the state of utter misery and wretchedness in which lakhs of our young girls and women find themselves in our country to-day. To my mind, life under such conditions is little removed from the tortures of hell. So long as men continue to behave so monstrously, there can be no hope of happiness for our women. Many men put the blame on the women's shoulders; but it is none of our business here to weigh the relative guilt of man and woman in this matter. We are only concerned to recognise the existence of the evil, and to point out its cure. Let all married people realise, once for all, that, so long as sexual enjoyment at a premature age, as well as during pregnancy and soon after child-birth, does not cease to exist in our land, an easy and painless child-birth must remain a wild dream. Women silently endure the pangs of child-birth, as well as the subsequent period of confinement, under the wrong notion that they are inevitable, but they fail to see how their own ignorance and weakness of will make their children grow weaker and droop from day to day. It is the clear duty of every man and woman to try to avert this calamity at any cost. If even a single man and woman should do their duty in this matter, to that extent it would mean the elevation of the world. And this is clearly a matter in which no man need or should wait for another's example.

It follows, then, that the very first duty of the husband is wholly to abstain from all sexual intercourse with the wife from the moment of conception. And great is the responsibility that rests on the wife during the nine months that follow. She should be made to realise that the character of the child to be born will depend entirely on her life and conduct during this sacred period. If she fills her mind with love for all things that are good and noble, the child will also manifest the same disposition; if, on the other hand, she gives way to anger and other evil passion, her child will necessarily inherit the same. Hence in these nine months, she should engage herself constantly in good works, free her mind from all fear and worry, give no room for any evil thoughts or feelings, keep out all untruth from her life, and waste not a moment in idle talk or deed. The child that is born of such, a mother,—how can it help being noble and strong?

The pregnant woman should, of course, keep her body as pure as her mind. She should breathe plenty of fresh air, and eat only so much of plain and wholesome food as she can easily digest. If she attends to all the directions already given in the matter of diet etc., she would have no need at all to seek the aid of doctors. If she suffers from constipation, the proportion of olive oil in the diet should be increased; and in cases of nausea or vomitting, she should take juice of lime in water without sugar. All spices and condiments should be scrupulously avoided.

The yearning for various new things that attends a woman in pregnancy may be restrained by the use of "Kuhne Baths". This is also useful in increasing her strength and vitality, and in easing the pangs of child-birth. It is also necessary to steal her mind against such yearnings by nipping in the bud each desire as it comes. The parents should be constantly mindful of the welfare of the child in the womb.

It is also the husband's duty during this period to refrain from all wranglings with his wife, and to conduct himself in such a way as to make her cheerful and happy. She should be relieved of the heavier duties of household management, and made to walk for some time every day in fresh air. And on no account should she be given any drugs or medicines during the period.