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Hindu and Pregnancy

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Hindu and Pregnancy Cultural diversity within the healthcare setting is becoming more prominent and more important on the basis that more and more racial minorities are becoming a part of the Indianapolis community. An important part of being a healthcare provider or a nurse is to provide the necessary understanding of different cultures as the cultures appear in the clinical setting. A culturally competent nurse or student will have the skills and knowledge needed to provide a genuine experience for patients who are of a culture that is different from the average American culture. In cultures such as the Hindu culture, the process of pregnancy is observed much differently than the traditional pregnancy. When approaching care for the pregnant Hindu woman, it would benefit one to be aware the cultures approach for pregnancy, birth and postpartum. The Hindu culture holds standards for specific diets and mentions multiple taboos that should be avoided during the pregnancy. This work will focus on basic Hindu background, the care for the woman throughout pregnancy and specific variables that are important for the healthcare provider to be aware of when caring for a patient of Hindu descent. Geographically, Hindu is the dominant religion of both India and Nepal. It exists in parts of China, Mongolia and much of the Eastern Hemisphere. Today, it is becoming more common that individuals of Hindu descent are settling in the United States. Rodrigues (2006), states that Hinduism sprung up in the Indus River Valley around six thousand years ago and is known as one of the oldest religions in the world today (Rodrigues, 2006). The Hindu people are known as both monotheists and polytheists. Hindus believe in one God known as the Brahman. However, Hindus also believe in other Gods such as Shiva, the destroyer of all things and Vishnu, the keeper and preserver of all things that are (Rodrigues, 2006). Hindus also believe in an organized caste system consisting of: Brahmin (priests), Kshatriya (warriors and administrators), Vaistrya (farmers, merchants, etc.) and Sudras (servants, laborers). The Hindu individual believes in karma and reincarnation. The idea that one’s actions good or bad, will translate into positive or negative outcomes is known as karma (Bredeson, 2013). The Hindu person believes that karma determine one’s fate in falling into a class into the caste system. It is believed that those that are bad will be reincarnated as members of the lower caste such as farmers or servants. Hindus that do good deeds in their lives will be reincarnated as priests or warriors in their next life according to belief (Bredeson, 2013). Hindu is known as a religion that is accepting of all religions, meaning that Hindus believe that all other religions are valid. One of the most prominent and well known Hindus, Mahatma Gandhi helped to enforce global peace and the idea that all religions would be accepted under Hindu beliefs before he was assassinated in 1948 (Rodrigues, 2006). Pregnancy for the Hindu woman is a time of eagerness and a time of anxiety as it is for many cultures. For the pregnant Hindu woman, her environment, her habits and her diet are considered important during the time of pregnancy. Hindus believe that being indoors keeps the woman from acquiring or bringing any negative energy into the home, therefore, the woman spends most of her pregnancy inside the home (English, 2010). It is the husband’s and the rest of the family’s duty to keep the woman safe and to satisfy her cravings or “dohale” as it is known in Hindu culture. The diet during a Hindu woman’s pregnancy is filled with mostly her cravings with little to no restrictions. Cold foods are preferred over hot foods and beef in forbidden due to its sacred title in the Hindu religion (English, 2010). Samskararas or rites of passage for the child are performed by the father during the pregnancy. The samskaras are thought to prepare the woman for birth and ensure good health of the child. A rite of passage known as Pumsavana is done to ensure that the child is a boy. Male children are celebrated in the religion due to outright success over women in the culture (Nand Bhatta, 2013). In this rite of passage, the woman holds mustard seed and barley in her hands as the father pours curds over her hands. During the birth of a Hindu child, it is important to note that the Hindu culture prefers a midwife before, during and after pregnancy. It is important that it is noted that the mother may prefer a female nurse over a male. The midwife acts as the mother’s primary caretaker up to ten days before and forty days after the birth (Nand Bhatta, 2013). A priest may also be present during the delivery to read mantras to ensure that the child is delivered free from harm from any evil deities.
It is important for the nurse to be aware that the naming process does not take place until ten days after birth due to the mother being considered impure. In the Hindu culture, menstrual blood is considered a taboo and the mother is considered unclean until her bleeding can be controlled (Nand Bhatta, 2013). It could benefit the nurse and the family if any outsiders would refrain from asking the name of the child. The placenta is often used for protection in the Hindu culture. The placenta is often buried under the house to keep mother and child healthy and ward off any evil spirits.
The family structure within Hinduism features the extended family, according to English (2010); the oldest male in the family may take place in the naming ceremony and may be the primary provider for the entire family. It is important to note that many women within the Hindu religion will refuse to wear open back gowns. If this is the case, it may be suggested that the nurse provide an accommodating gown for the patient. In the Hindu religion, there are many taboos. Cold foods are thought to prevent miscarriages and hot foods are only given after pregnancy. Though there are many taboos for the mother, there are also many taboos for the father as well. According to Nand Bhatta (2013), the male must avoid traveling at all costs and he also never cut his hair. The idea that a male must not travel all goes back to the idea that an outside source could bring in an evil spirit. Hindus are also known to avoid healthcare at any cost unless there is a medical emergency (Nand Bhatta, 2013).
Due to the increased diversity of the Indianapolis area and the United States as a whole, it is important that the healthcare provider become more culturally aware and culturally competent in the healthcare setting. The idea of becoming more knowledgeable about various cultures such as the Hindu culture, will allow the nurse to tend to a patient specifically and systematically. The Hindu culture exhibits specific dietary standards such as the avoidance of cold foods to prevent miscarriage and exhibits a large role for the father in which he performs rites of passage for the mother and the child. The nurse can also accommodate for the Hindu woman if she prefers to have a female nurse rather than a male as well as satisfying any other realistic preferences that she may have. The Hindu culture is an influential and accepting culture with a long and storied history. Nurses and other healthcare providers find great success in cross cultural situations when they have chosen to indulge learning about a variety of different cultures and norms (Bredeson, 2013).

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