#EMMAseries: COMMON HARMFUL TRADITIONAL PRACTICES IN RELATION TO PREGNANCY/CHILDBIRTH/NEWBORNS

BY DR GBEMISOLA BOYEDE (PEDIATRICIAN)

Pregnancy/Childbirth/Newborns

1. Restriction of certain foods from pregnant women/ food taboos. the pregnant woman is to eat a balanced diet at all times and there is no need for any food restriction except for medical reasons e.g. among the diabetics or hypertensives.

2. Application of heat, cow dung, dusting powder, toothpaste etc on the umbilical cord of newborns. All these can lead to cord infection and/or neonatal tetanus

3. Throwing away of the milk in the first few days of life known as colostrum, erroneously believed to be ‘sour’ or bad because of its light yellow colour. Yet this is the best milk that is full of antibodies that protect the baby against so many diseases.

4. Squeezing the ‘swollen breasts’ of the newborn to express the milk. This result in breast infection and abscess at times

5. Application of sticky substances on the anterior fontanelle of the baby. The anterior fontanelle is that part of the baby’s head that seems to be pulsating and very soft. Some people call it ‘oka’. It is a NORMAL part of the head that allows for the brain to grow and it will eventually close by itself by age of 2years. There is no need to apply anything on it including the many oil applications (though that is harmless). However we have seen cases where caustic materials were applied, which lead to destruction of the anterior fontanelle with direct exposure of the brain to the atmosphere of course with all the attendant complications.

6. Cutting tongue-tie and circumcision by the traditional birth attendants because of the unhygienic ways of doing it and at times local application of herbs

7. Ajogba/local pharmacy – due to beliefs that newborns must always take medications including antibiotics, multivitamins, nospamin, gripe water, baby paracetamol etc. The truth is that they need none except vitamin drops

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