Monday, March 12, 2007

Is Ignorance Truly Blissful?

Our extended Argentine family is going to have a busy winter this year. Our baby is due in late August and Guillermo's cousin, Maria-Eugenia, is also going to be a first time mother in mid August.

Since our due dates are less than 3 weeks apart, there are bound to be comparisons between Maria-Eugenia and myself. Indeed, they have every reason to do so as the differences in our approach to pregnancy are noticeable. Basically, it all goes back to cultural differences.

This is actually my second pregnancy in Argentina if I count my short-lived one last year. In neither circumstance did my GP at Medicus Centre (Recoleta) or my gynaecologist/obstetrician advice me on which food, herb or medication to avoid/ cut down during pregnancy. Neither did anyone advise me on the appropriate weight gain in the following 8 months. Furthermore, none of these professionals provided information on the labour and delivery or advised us to attend ante-natal classes. I have been relying my GP in Sydney, English language books and websites for information so far.

Abuela was utterly surprised when I first mentioned to her over tea that I am avoiding cold cuts (fiambres) during the pregnancy. She questioned the source of my information and when I told her both my GP and midwife in Sydney had warned me against listeria (not a grave matter for the mother but detrimental to the baby) and which foods may contain them, she responded that no doctor had told her pregnant grand-daughter anything. Well, I could have said the same about my Argentine doctors.

I had mentioned in an earlier post about the widespread usage of oxytocin (pitocin is the commercial name) in Argentina to induce birth, out of convenience rather than necessity. The drug, with potentially dangerous side-effects, is usually injected into a drip without the mother-to-be being notified. If one objects to it, one has to raise the issue with the doctor and the midwife. However, most disturbingly, neither doctors nor midwives mention the usage of this drug as part of normal delivery.

I am only aware of the usage because an expat friend who went through a natural delivery at the Swiss Hospital alerted me to the common practice in this country. Fortunately for her, she stopped the midwife who was already holding the needle just in time. Consequently, however, she did get an earful as the midwife protested that she didn't want to be held up by my friend's natural birth.

The birth itself is also cause of much concern among expats. Friends who delivered at the Swiss Hospital and Otamendi both had their midwives hopping on top of their bumps and then using their entire body weight to push the baby down and out (both friends were delivering from a seated position) were certainly chilling tales of an unconventional delivery method for non-Argentines.

Another common practice of which I have been forewarned is that nurses here may feed a newborn cow's milk if the mother is not expressing enough milk on the first couple of days. An Argentine friend who is also a paediatrician has warned me that some older nurses fail to recognise the watery milk, known as colostrum, is actually nature's way of feeding newborn with a delicate, brand new digestive track. These nurses have a tendency to feed babies cow's milk as "supplement". Cow's milk is full of allergens and actually has disastrous effect on newborns.

You may recall from older posts that Guillermo's niece suffers milk allergy which means she is on an extremely restricted lactose and soya-free diet. Her mother has recently told me that the cause of her allergy is highly likely to be the switch from breast milk straight to cow's milk when her daughter wasn't quite 3 months. She sighed with much regret that no doctor, nurse or nutritionist had provided her with any information at the time.

If I have to choose between blissful ignorance and industrious awareness, I am sure I'm one to sign up for a little reading and research.

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