A pregnant female is an interesting species. They better be; for they alone can perform and bring the miracle of child birth to fruition.
From the creepy bats in dark caves, whales in the deep of the oceans, cockroaches in shadowy precincts and baboons on mountain slopes, to birds on tree tops and humans at Princess Marina Hospital, the females are blessed with the means to nurture life and bring it into the world.
But then, there are some ‘naggy’ things that pregnant women (human) do, want, demand and simply act out that make ‘spectators’ like us, both male and female, wonder.
For example, a pregnant woman might just extensively dislike a friend or someone during their term of pregnancy and then the situation ‘returns to normal’ after childbirth. Some pregnant women also prune soil from tree trunks and anthills and eat it. The practice is known as geophagia. This is something that women, pregnant or not, most often do. They collect it from anthills and munch on it.
KFC, Chicken Licken and Hungry Lion eat your hearts out!
The women sell and eat soil as if that is quite normal.
Writing in the Journal Of the Royal Society of Medicine, Alexander Woywodt, MD and Akos Kiss of the Department of Surgery, Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital, University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa, define geophagia as “a deliberate consumption of earth, soil, or clay. From different viewpoints it has been regarded as a psychiatric disease, a culturally sanctioned practice or a sequel to poverty and famine.”
But we know that it is none of the above.
Pica: Encyclopedia of Mental Disorders says “geophagy is the practice of eating earthy or soil-like substances such as clay, and chalk, in order to obtain essential nutrients such as sulfur and phosphorus from the soil…”
In Africa, it does not appear to be a disorder at all. This man here has come across something about anaemia, iron deficiency and some such things, and understands quite well. Women eat soil, for better or worse.
“Eating soil has become a widespread practice throughout the world. Most women have done it and are still doing it,” says Sunday Standard reporter, Kgomotso Kgwagaripane. “What you may be more surprised to learn, though, is that geophagia, used to be common in expectant and lactating women, perhaps related to their heightened sense of smell and taste. But now everyone is doing it regardless of whether they are pregnant or not.”
But, for those who can access it and have the cash in hand, there is also an alternative.
Dark chocolates, totally unrelated to the dark soil, are said to be good for the unborn child.
Just end of last week, April 28, Reuters carried a story from the current issue of Epidemiology magazine of May 2008, saying that results of new research suggest that indulging in chocolate during pregnancy “could help ward off a serious complication known as preeclampsia.”
Researchers say preeclampsia, in which blood pressure spikes during pregnancy while excess protein is released into the urine, has many features in common with heart disease.
“Chocolate, especially dark chocolate, is rich in a chemical called theobromine, which stimulates the heart, relaxes smooth muscle and dilates blood vessels,” wrote Dr Elizabeth Triche of Yale University in the above report. “It has been used to treat chest pain, high blood pressure, and hardening of the arteries.”
The report says, to investigate whether chocolate’s possible cardiovascular benefits also might help prevent preeclampsia, the researchers looked at 2,291 women who delivered a single infant, and asked them about how much chocolate they consumed in their first and third trimesters. The researchers also tested levels of theobromine in infants’ umbilical cord blood.
“Women who consumed the most chocolate and those whose infants had the highest concentration of theobromine in their umbilical cord blood were the least likely to develop preeclampsia. Women in the highest quarter for cord blood theobromine were 69 percent less likely to develop the complication than those in the lowest quarter.”
Triche and her team noted that theobromine could improve circulation within the placenta while blocking oxidative stress, or it could also be a stand-in for other beneficial chemicals found in chocolate.
The report goes on to say women who ate five or more servings of chocolate each week in their third trimester of pregnancy were 40 percent less likely to develop preeclampsia than those who ate chocolate less than once a week.
PregnancyWizard, which offers news, information and advice, says a recent study done by the University of Helsinki in Finland has shown that consuming chocolate while pregnant may benefit babies.
“The babies studied were tested in areas of smiling and laughter, and fear of novel situations. The babies of mothers who ate chocolate smiled and laughed more, and they also showed less fear when put into a new situation. Overall, the babies of mothers who ate chocolate had a much more positive mood than those who did not,” said the study report.
Along with caffeine, chocolate contains many nutrients such as iron and magnesium, also found in the soils that women dig and eat.
“Chocolate cravings may indicate a deficiency in these nutrients,” says the report, “but when eaten in moderation, it may be a way to get more of these essential nutrients.”
Commenting on the same research findings, the NewScientist, in an article entitled ‘Chocolate in pregnancy keeps baby happy’ said after the babies were born, they looked for an association between the amount of chocolate their mothers had eaten and the babies’ behaviour. Six months after birth, the researchers asked mothers to rate their infants’ behaviour in various categories, including fear, soothability, smiling and laughter.
“The babies born to women who had been eating chocolate daily during pregnancy were more active and “positively reactive” – a measure that encompasses traits such as smiling and laughter,” the report said. “And the babies of stressed women who had regularly consumed chocolate showed less fear of new situations than babies of stressed women who abstained.”
Researchers, however, pointed out that they cannot rule out the possibility that chocolate consumption and baby behaviour are both linked with some other factor.
Deborah Marcus, (The Voice of Women) refers to a report on the BBC News, which summed up a study of pregnant women at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine where a team of scientists there found that daily consumption of chocolate helped reduce the risk of miscarriage.
While we enjoy these scientific findings, we should, obviously, not lose sight of the fact that most of these researches are funded by companies whose products are the ones used in the experiments.
You should always talk to or consult your healthcare practitioner.
In the meantime, Happy Munching!
But don’t finish all those chocolates and all that soil now, you hear?