Requirements Of Pregnancy
( Originally Published 1918 )
THE young wife who finds herself pregnant for the first time is very apt to allow her-self, first of all, to entertain a feeling of fear. She knows little of the experience which is before her, and doubtless looks upon it as a form of illness. The first thing for her to learn, there-fore, is that pregnancy is a perfectly normal experience. There is nothing about it that she needs to fear, especially if she is wise enough to follow the teachings of hygiene. If she keeps herself in a perfectly normal, healthy condition, she has nothing to be afraid of.
The girl who has always led an active outdoor life is much better equipped for motherhood than the one who has played the fine lady and, by various forms of self-indulgence, allowed her physical organism to deteriorate. The latter will need to devote especial attention to building up her general condition in order that she may meet successfully the requirements of this period.
If the pregnant woman has followed a sedentary life, or is not over-strong, she should be particularly careful not to lift anything that is very heavy, not to do any reaching after things above her head, as under such circumstances these two forms of activity are liable to bring on a miscarriage. She should also be careful to avoid all jolting, particularly such as might come from a fall.
It is difficult for young women to appreciate the importance of following these simple directions. They are apt to say, if cautioned, "Oh, I'm not going to give in to it in any such silly way as that," or, "I don't want to make an old crone out of myself," which simply shows that they have no comprehension of the true state of affairs.
Their bodily organism is being called upon to adjust itself to an entirely new condition. The uterus and its appendages are surcharged and unusually heavy. There is a delicacy of adjustment during these first two or three months which may very easily be upset in the ways indicated. It is during these early months that miscarriages are most likely to occur.
Young wives should know that miscarriages are much more dangerous than normal child-birth, and, moreover, if a miscarriage occurs once, there is always a liability to its recurrence in any future pregnancy. For this reason, they should be particularly careful when carrying their first child. If through any inadvertence they suffer a fall, we will say, and feel a few little pains in the region of the uterus, let them at once put a chair face downward upon the bed and place themselves upon it, with their lower limbs raised upon the inclined back of the chair in such a way that the hips will be markedly raised above the shoulders, and let them remain in this position for an hour or two. If done at once, this may avert possible disastrous consequences.
The girl who has lived an athletic life needs to change her habits very little. She also should be careful during the first few months not to be too venturesome in lifting or stretching, but if, for example, she has been accustomed to horseback riding, there is no need for her to give it up for some little time. Any other form of activity that her body is used to, she may very well continue.
Outdoor life, as much of it as can be secured, is the very best thing for women in this condition. Their blood must be purified by the oxygen and sent racing through their veins by active exercise, in order that the little new life may receive the best possible nourishment.
Expectant mothers are sometimes urged to eat a very large amount, because they are "eating for two," as it is called. This is a mistaken notion. They should eat only what their system can easily assimilate; more than that is a burden to the body. If it is their habit to use only the most hygienic foods, they need not change their diet in any particular. If, however, they have been accustomed to highly spiced foods, to tea and coffee, and alcoholic drinks, they will be materially benefiting their child's body if they will put aside all of these unnatural stimulants and content themselves with those simple foods which contribute in greatest degree to bone and muscle structure.
Sometimes the young woman becomes obsessed with the idea that she must have a certain article of diet. If there is no special objection to it on the part of her physician, well and good. If, however, it is particularly detrimental to her, she should not allow herself to be overcome with the fear that the deprivation of this particular food will be in any least way detrimental to her child. The old theory that a child would be marked if the mother was deprived in this way has been thoroughly disproved. Her self-control in refusing to take that which is not good for her can have but a beneficial effect upon the little life that is forming.
The Greeks believed that a great effect was produced upon the child by the surroundings in which the expectant mother lived. So they saw to it that their mothers-to-be lived in the midst of the beauties of Nature and the most wonderfuI productions of man's art. The custom was indeed a beautiful one, and if it had no direct effect upon the unborn children, must have exerted a favorable influence indirectly, because it contributed to the mental repose and happiness of the mothers. Our country has not yet arrived at the point, however, of viewing this matter in its manifest relation to the national resources. Consequently each woman must depend upon her own immediate family for what-ever beautiful surroundings she is to have, and many are compelled to live under such circumstances that these comforts and Iuxuries are denied to them. Even here, however, the mother need not feel discouraged, for she can know that only those things which she allows to affect her will be able to exert 'any influence through her upon her child. Even though disappointment and disaster come upon her at this time, if she meets it all in a spirit of courage and optimism her child will feel the inspiring effect of her attitude of hopefulness. Thus she may turn. even the hard lessons of life into a benefit for her little one.
There was a time in this country when it was not supposed to be quite the thing for the expectant mother to engage in social life, even of the most modest sort. She was expected to immure herself within the four walls of home throughout almost the whole of this important period. This fallacious idea is happily passing away, thanks, partly to the maternity dresses which are now so artistically designed and comfortably made. No young woman in this condition need feel the least bit conspicuous, and she should understand, as should those about her, that now as never before she needs all of the happiness and inspiration which comes through healthful social life. Let her go with her husband to intimate social gatherings and attend concerts and other forms of recreation which will not make too great a demand upon her physical powers or her sleeping hours. When the time comes, however, as it will ultimately, when her activities must be temporarily restricted, let her accept these limitations cheerfully, realizing that they are but a small part of the price which it is only right should be paid for the priceless treasure which is to come into her life.
One very important question will come up for husband and wife to consider at this time, and that is as to whether or not the marriage relation should be entered into during these nine months. There have been men who have taken the position that, since the woman need no longer fear the "consequences," she should now give herself up unreservedly to the husband's demands. This way of looking at the matter does not take into account the welfare of the expectant mother, or that of the child. These considerations, it would seem to any right-thinking individual, must be paramount. Furthermore the husband is injured by these relations at this time. It is a drain upon his nervous system for which there is no compensation.
And when one thinks for a moment of the tremendous drain that is being made upon the wife's physical being at this time, it would seem that a consideration of this fact would completely end all thought of any further demand upon her. She is engaged in the greatest, the most supreme task allotted to the human race, and to that she should be consecrated.
If we study the habits of the lower animals who are monogamous, we will find there obedience to a law which it would seem the human kind would do well to follow also. Among these Iower forms of life, it is always the female who chooses the time when she will allow this relationship to be entered into. It is only when her system is most fully adapted to the requirements of pregnancy and when the conditions of Nature itself are favorable, that she will permit the approach of the male. Moreover, when she has become pregnant, she will resist with tooth and nail all efforts at approach, and her wishes in this particular are respected by her male companions. Would it not seem that the same prerogative should be allowed to womankind, and that man's intelligence would lead him to understand her need for freedom from his approach at this time?
There are physiological reasons why, for these nine months, the pregnant woman should be thus unmolested. In the first place, sexual indulgence at this time has a direct weakening effect upon the parts concerned, with a resultant irritation and congestion which would be unfavorable to natural and easy childbirth. This is a matter of the utmost importance to the woman, and, it would seem, to the husband as well. In the second place, it is found that intimacies of this kind at this time have a tendency to produce, or greatly to aggravate, the condition of nausea or "morning sickness" which many pregnant women experience. A third reason makes abstinence still more imperative. It has been found that a large percentage of miscarriages are the direct result of abuse of the sexual relation by inconsiderate, exacting husbands. Surely a loving husband and prospective father would gladly deny himself that which would seem to be abnormal indulgence in view of the fact that it may result in the Ioss of his unborn child. Loving consideration of his wife at this time will do more than anything else to endear him to her. She will find in his restraint the truest indication that his heart is filled with love for her, and that his personal wishes are subordinated to his love.
The husband has many opportunities during this wonderful time, when his wife is carrying his child within her body, to express his devotion in ways that will be conducive to her welfare, and therefore the welfare of their offspring. The physical requirements of pregnancy call for freedom from mental strain and exciting work. All the vitality and reserve strength possible are needed by the wife during this time. The husband should watch over her in every way in his power, keeping worry away from her, encouraging her to be in the open air as much as possible, seeing to it that she has plenty of sleep, and in all ways contributing to her happiness.
It is possible that the wife will not be quite her-self while carrying this extra load. She may be cross, irritable, moody, depressed. In all these matters the husband must have patience with her. At the same time the wife should realize that it is not necessary to give herself up to these feelings. By effort of will, she can throw them off, and every time she does so she is contributing to the welfare of her child.