In the last week, the talk of the town in the consulting room was the eclipse and its effects on pregnancy. The last time that Snehal (name changed) delivered her baby, she had not seen all her family members right away; but this time, Snehal (name changed) came for her consultation with her full family to discuss the management of eclipse-riddled pregnant woman at home. Soon, I started getting frenzied SMSs, calls and emails on eclipse and its effects on pregnancy. I got to know some interesting, new myths:
• Do not look at the sky/ sun/moon during the eclipse. Don’t go out.
• Cover the windows with dark films so that the natural light will not come in the house.
• Do not eat or drink anything during the eclipse.
• Do not use sharp objects to cut any thing
• Do not move! Just sit at one place. Do not sleep.
• Do not watch TV or browse the internet. (Then what do you do?)
• Make fresh food after the eclipse. Throw away the food made before the eclipse.

The extent of the concern became evident to me when someone asked, “Can pictures of the eclipse that are shown on TV can spread rays in the house?” In short, people are even sceptical of the pregnant woman watching TV after the eclipse. Interestingly, I am yet to hear something about “What to do?”, rather than “What not to do?”

I tried to logically analyse the scientific material on the subject. I also checked the ‘so called’ material available on the ‘so called’ consumer sites for pregnant women. All say the same thing: Why take a chance? It is a matter of few hours. So follow the rituals. Be happy and keep other people at home happy. But is there really any scientific evidence for these concerns? 

I have been in medical practice for last 23 years. In general, there are a minimum of 2 lunar and 2 solar eclipses every year. This number can go up to 7 at times. Thus, in my career as a gynaecologist, I have witnessed at least 96 eclipses. There have been many occasions when a woman has come in labour or delivered during the eclipse. But mind you, I have not seen a single baby born with a deformity during this time.
So is there any scientific truth in the belief that some different or harmful rays are emitted by the sun or moon during this time? 

The distance between the earth and the sun is some 150 million kilometres. The distance between earth and moon is 385 thousand kilometres. When the moon comes in between sun and earth you get solar eclipse. The sun does not have any brain or processing unit that it gets upset with the moon and starts emitting harmful rays. And that too these harmful rays cannot like laser guided missiles watch out for pregnant women and target them. 

Then why were we taught not to look at sun directly during eclipse? In the darkness the pupils of the eye dilate allowing more light to pass into eyes. During the day, the pupils contract. During the eclipse, as the sun gets covered, there is darkness due to which the pupils dilate while one is looking at the sun with naked eyes. The moon moves away quickly due to which the intensity of light suddenly changes or increases exposure of the retina to the high intensity of light, thus damaging the eye. In the days when science was not as advanced, people used to get scared with the phenomenon of sudden darkness during the day. This gave birth to the myths around it. 

So girls you do not need to worry at all! Believe in science and not the myths.

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