Health experts have reacted to the notion that eating okra or drinking okra water, especially in the last trimester of pregnancy could make labour and delivery easier for a woman.
According to the experts, the notion that okra can help a woman have an easy birth is a myth as there has not been any documented scientific evidence of its benefits to childbirth.
Speaking with PUNCH HealthWise in separate exclusive interviews, the experts, Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, Dr. Stanley Egbogu and registered nutritionist, Mrs. Yemisi Solanke-Lawal said it is a false belief that okra can make labour easy.
According to a birthingbalance.com, a maternal health site, okra has high folate (the natural form of vitamin B9, water-soluble, naturally found in many foods), but it does not contain any folic acid.
It stated that a serving of okra provides 15 pere cent of a woman’s daily needs of folate, and with other folate-rich foods and the required prenatal vitamin, a woman should have adequate concentrations of this vitamin.
Speaking, Egbogu, who works with the Nnamdi Azikiwe University Teaching Hospital, Nnewi said that this belief, that okra makes birthing easy, is common, especially in rural areas, noting that it is among the various myths and superstitious beliefs that people hold onto despite lack of supporting evidence.
“There are so many superstitious beliefs people have. This is one of the myths people believe but no documented evidence eating okra during the last trimester can help make labour easy. I know people believe it and this is usually in the villages. It is not documented but some people believe it.”
He, however, noted that as a vegetable, okra has a lot of nutritional benefits.
The gynaecologist urged pregnant women not to rely on the unverified claim of the ability of okra to aid labour and to rather resort to mild exercises that have been noted to make labour easy.
Egbogu said that mild exercises like walking helps make birthing easy. Although not practised in Nigeria, he added that giving birth in water has also been documented to lessen labour pain.
On her part, the diet expert, Solanke-Lawal said she is not aware of the effect of eating okra during birthing.
Okra, she however noted has been known to help keep the sugar level of people living with diabetes under control.
The nutritionist stated that having lived in China if such claims were true, it would have been seen across the Asian country as China is noted to rely heavily on herbal and natural remedies.
The dietician also added that okra contains some healthy nutrients like vitamin A, vitamin C, magnesium, calcium and potassium which are all beneficial to the woman when taken in the right quantity.
She recommends that pregnant women should add the right quantity of vegetables like okra in their meals to ensure that they get just the right amount of nutrients from it.