Pregnant women in India are being told to avoid meat, eggs and “impure thoughts” and instead look at pictures of beautiful babies.
The country’s government has been condemned by doctors for the advice, included in a “Mother and Child Care” booklet.
Released by a ministry that promotes traditional and alternative medicine, the publication encourages mothers-to-be to avoid non-vegetarian food.
It adds: “Pregnant women should detach themselves from desire, anger, attachment, hatred and lust.”
Expectant mothers are also encouraged to look at images of beautiful babies to benefit their foetus.
Experts have branded the advice, issued by the Central Council for Research in Yoga and Naturopathy, as “irrational” and “detrimental” to women’s health.
Arun Gadre, a gynaecologist based in Pune, western India, who works in rural areas, said: “The government is doling out unscientific and irrational advice, instead of ensuring that poor pregnant women get to eat a nutritious, high-protein diet.”
Malnutrition and iron deficiency are blamed for India having one of the highest rates of maternal mortality in the world.
According to UNICEF, 174 of every 100,000 pregnancies resulted in the mother’s death in 2015.
In the UK, the rate is nine deaths per 100,000 pregnancies.
Dr Gadre added: “This is a national shame. If the calories of expectant mothers are further reduced by asking them to shun meat and eggs, this situation will only worsen.
“This is absurd advice to be giving to pregnant women in a country like India.”
Amit Sengupta, a doctor and health care activist with the Delhi Science Forum, accused the ministry of “backward-thinking”.
He said: “This kind of advice is detrimental to women’s health.”
The ministry responded to criticism by claiming the booklet includes “relevant and useful information culled out from many years of clinical practice in the fields of yoga and naturopathy”.
India’s health ministry has previously clashed with its traditional medicine counterpart, with the advice unlikely to be promoted at government-run health centres.
The booklet has been viewed as the latest push for vegetarianism by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu-nationalist government.
Last month, environment ministers imposed a ban on the sale of cows and buffaloes for slaughter as part of Mr Modi’s crackdown on India’s meat industry.