It is commonly believed that a pregnant woman must eat for two. The wise woman will not increase her food intake. If she is not up to par physically at the time of conception she will generally find it advantageous to decrease the food allowance.
A healthy baby should not weigh to exceed six, or at most seven, pounds at birth. Five pounds would be better. It does not take much food to nourish an infant of that weight, and the baby does not weigh that much until shortly before birth. Most of the food is used for fuel but the amount of fuel required to heat a baby that is kept warm within the mother's body is almost negligible.
One of the first and most important requisites for having healthy children is to avoid the eating-for-two fallacy. Most people overeat, anyway, and there should be no encouragement in this line.
The results of overeating are many and serious. The mother grows too heavy or else she becomes dyspeptic. Overeating and partaking of food of poor quality are the chief causes of the ills of pregnancy. Prospective mothers can be comfortable. Pregnancy and childbirth are physiological. Normal women suffer very little inconvenience or pain. The suffering during pregnancy, the pain and accidents at childbirth are measures of the mother's abnormality. The greater the inconvenience the farther has the individual strayed from a natural life. The women who live normally from the time of conception, or before, until the birth of the baby will be surprised how little inconvenience there is.
For ideal results the father must be kind, considerate and self-controlled. It is a disagreeable fact that many men are brutal and inconsiderate of wives and unborn children. The extent of this brutality can hardly be realized by those who have had no medical experience. Perhaps the women are partly to blame, for they do not teach their boys to be considerate and kind and they leave them in ignorance of subjects that are important and that can best be taught by parents.
A pregnant woman should be mistress of her body. During this period the husband has morally no marital rights. If boys were educated by their parents on this subject they would be reasonable later on, and the average boy of fourteen or fifteen is old enough to receive such education.
Gestation should be a period of calm. All excitement and passion are harmful. The mother should be as free from annoyance as possible. Cheerfulness should be the rule. Those who are not naturally cheerful should cultivate this desirable state of mind. Gruesome and horrible topics should not be discussed. The reading should not be along tragic lines. The study of nature and the philosophy of men who have found life sweet are among the helpful mental occupations. The mental attitude has its effect, not only on the mother, but on the unborn babe. That the seed for good or evil is often planted in the child's brain before birth, according to the mental and physical condition of the mother, can hardly be doubted. Mothers who live naturally can dismiss all worry on the subject of harm coming to themselves through maternity, for there will be none. The absence of worry has a good effect on both mother and child.
The various ills from which mothers suffer are largely caused by eating for two. The overeating causes overweight in those whose nutrition is above par and indigestion in those who have but ordinary digestive capacity. Those who are overweight have too high blood pressure and those who have indigestion absorb some of the poisonous products of decomposition from the bowels. Headache is a common result. Palpitation of the heart comes from gas pressure. The abnormal blood pressure may result in albuminurea, swelling of the lower extremities and overweight of both mother and child. The morning sickness is nearly always due to excessive food intake. If this proves troublesome, reduce the amount of food and simplify the combinations. Instead of taking heavy, rich dishes, increase the amount of fresh fruits and vegetables.
The birth of a large baby is fraught with danger to mother and child. Sometimes one or both are injured and sometimes one or both die. Many women are afraid to become mothers for this reason. It would be difficult to estimate how often this fear causes law breaking, for all large cities have their medical men who grow rich through illegal practices among these women. Sometimes these doctors are among the respected members of the profession, eminent enough to have a national reputation. The financial reward is great enough to tempt men to break the law and they will continue to do so, so long as present conditions exist.
It is important for the prospective mother to be moderate in her eating. Three meals a day are sufficient. Between meals nothing but water should be swallowed. Lunching always leads to overeating.
One meal each day can consist of starchy food, but not more than one meal. Any one of the starches may be selected, the cereal products, rice, potatoes, chestnuts. If the digestion is good, take matured beans, peas or lentils occasionally, but these are so heavy that they should not be eaten very frequently and always in moderation. With the starchy food selected, take either butter or milk, or a moderate quantity of both. Sometimes it is all right to take some fruit with the starchy food, but this should be the exception, not the rule. Fruit should generally be eaten by itself or taken with non-starchy foods. Starch eating should be limited to one meal a day because an excessive amount of this food causes hardening of the tissues. The baby's bones, which should be very soft, flexible and yielding at birth, will become too hard if much starch is eaten.