Motherhood and Wellbeing

In South Asian cultures, motherhood reflects a stage in a woman’s life, which deals with nurturing and care for children along with introducing them to the cultural values of their society.  Historically, mothers have been associated with the domestic sphere — the spaces within home. However, the contemporary societal dynamics allow for concepts like shared parenthood, paternity leaves and the acceptance of ‘working’ mothers. The transition into the role of a young mother involves heightened attention towards healthcare of a mother and the baby, as reflected in the plethora of maternal and childcare facilities in hospitals and health-care projects by the Non-Governmental Organisation (NGOS) and/or International Non-Governmental Organization (INGOS) in the development sector. This is because the health of a mother, the child and the entire family, are interconnected. Napoléon once said, “Give me a good mother and I will give you a good nation.”

Wellbeing aka Holistic Health
We all need to understand that health today does not only mean the absence of a physical disease, nor does it only encompass the dimensions of physical and mental health. It is now wellbeing that is being promoted, which highlights the concept of holistic healthcare. This includes physical, intellectual, spiritual, mental and social wellbeing. Following can be some of the strategies to adopt for holistic healthy motherhood. 

•    Celebrate Motherhood
Universally, mothers carry immense respect, as is also stated in the Qura’an, “Paradise lies beneath the feet of mothers.” This transformative phase of life usually ushers additional stress, responsibilities and a sense of loss of control, but one must acknowledge the blessing of birth. It gives mothers a psychological sense of wellbeing and one must be sensitive to the issues of women who face difficulty in conceiving, infertility, miscarriages, etc. Nothing should stop new mothers from celebrating the occasion of the birth of their newborns.

•    Fact-checking and Myth-Busting
Some women believe that the first breast milk that is yellowish in color must be disposed of, as it is harmful for the child. However, the scientifically proven fact is that this milk is colostrum and is the richest food needed to boost the baby’s immune system in the early days. Similarly, they seek information from their mothers, friends or the internet for various new and emerging issues that many young mothers have to cater to. They may come across myths or falsehoods related to post-natal care or child’s development. It is important to validate information and bust any myths to empower oneself and make appropriate healthcare decisions.

•    Balanced Diet
A healthy body yields a healthy mind. Young mothers must include proteins such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy and nuts in their diet to build immunity. Also seasonal fruits and fresh vegetables should be taken frequently. One can take help from the food pyramid to assess dietary intake. 
A balanced diet facilitates organs and tissues to work efficiently and the body becomes less prone to disease, infection fatigue and poor performance.

•    Exercise
A lot of people think that exercise is only required when one has to lose weight. One must know that when we exercise, i.e., take a walk, jog in the park, run on a treadmill, etc., we are actually releasing chemicals called endorphins in our bodies, which trigger a happy and positive feeling. Therefore, some form of physical exercise should be a necessary part of the daily routine.

•    Strike a Work-life Integration
Working women or more correctly put, women working in offices have to live up to the unrealistic work-life balance. Today, however, a new concept of ‘work-life integration’ is being promoted where workers do not compartmentalize work and life, rather they seek out connections between different aspects of life, which include work, home/family, community and personal wellbeing. One should not hesitate to seek available avenues like flexible working hours, taking rightful leaves and vacation time, being involved in social activities at work that cater to personal interests, or a hobby and exploring possibilities of effective use of technology to stay committed to work along with other aspects of life.

•    Spiritual Health
A significant aspect of wellbeing requires living a purposeful life and exploring deeper meanings of one’s existence. One can take time out to think positively, say prayers, travel, practice yoga and meditation, or volunteer to contribute to the society in any capacity as part of their social responsibility. 

•    Social Participation
Motherhood tends to be time-consuming and labor intensive. Therefore, one must not forget to especially take out time from the busy schedule for socializing with their friends and family members.

•    Wellbeing Awareness 
Mothers should be aware of the common ailments like flu, cough, cold, fever, etc., that can affect children or adults in the family and basic medicines needed or emergency treatments required in such situations. Mothers can help children transition into adulthood smoothly if they socialize with them well in the adolescent stage. There are some issues, which are not openly discussed in the media or educational institutions, e.g., puberty related stress, physical, emotional and sexual development of a child and it is usually considered the duty of mothers to talk to their children about such agendas. 
At the same time, mothers should be vigilant about their own health. Prevention is better than cure and for most diseases, e.g., breast cancer, early detection is the best preventive measure. One should be aware of basic screening mechanisms to assess health conditions and the need to go to a hospital. HH

The writer is a lecturer at National Institute of Medical Sciences (NUMS). 
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