Now that you’re pregnant, you’ve probably heard it all – what you should or should not do and sometimes it can get a tad confusing. So the question is how you decide whose advice to heed.
WORDS MELISSA ESPECKERMAN
So you’ve told those nearest and dearest to you about your impending bundle of joy. And when you once used to have pretty normal conversations with them, it’s now become all about your pregnancy. While that may not sound so bad – after all carrying a baby is no easy feat and you should be basking under all that attention – many women find themselves at the centre of advice (some of it unsolicited) from the many mums around them. But how do you know who you should listen to.
While many know alcohol and caffeine are big no-nos during pregnancy, some say that consuming just a little doesn’t put your foetus in any danger. So while that cuppa may smell like just what you need, should you risk it and take a sip? We ask the experts.
When it comes to drinking alcohol during pregnancy, some say that a glass or two of wine wouldn’t do any harm but how true is that? Obstetrician and gynaecologist, Dr Kelly Loi from the Health & Fertility Centre for Women says that there is no ‘safe’ limit for alcohol and the general advice is to avoid it altogether. So before you take that sip of that chardonnay with your dinner, remind yourself that you’re putting down that glass for a good reason.
If you’ve always been a heavy drinker, it’s time to stop – that is if you have not already done so. A definite big no-no is drinking excessively while pregnant. Here’s why. “Excessive alcohol intake has been associated with ‘foetal alcohol syndrome’, a condition where a foetus develops abnormally resulting in an abnormal appearance and neurological impairment,” adds Dr Loi.
Caffeine isn’t any good either for your baby either. So if you’re an avid coffee drinker, you should be cutting down right about now as excessive caffeine intake has been associated with a higher risk of miscarriage.
One of the most serious mistakes a woman can make during pregnancy is to light up. While we may not see it happening very often, it does and this can be detrimental to the health of the unborn child. “Smoking in pregnancy can affect the development and health of the placenta which provides the blood and nutrients to the baby. This may in turn lead to intra- uterine growth restriction such as the baby not growing to his optimal size,” stresses Dr Loi.
If you’re not a smoker but someone at home is, your baby is still at risk. Second hand smoke can be just as hazardous if not even more so.
No, contrary to what many think, pregnancy is also not a time to eat for two. But it is important to eat healthily. says Dr Lim May Li, consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist from Gynecology Consultants Clinic & Surgery advises expectant mums to eat more of foods from the vegetables/fruit group and carbohydrate group preferably the wholemeal variety as well as from milk and dairy products and from group comprising of meat, fish, egg and non-dairy sources of protein.
Of course that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the occasional treat. You can simply add sliced fruit to your yummy ice cream sundae! Just remember, everything in moderation. After all, expectant mummies just need 300 to 500 more calories per day during pregnancy.
But sometimes the thought of food can make some expectant mums feel sick – literally. Morning sickness is pretty common and leaves many with no appetite. “Morning sickness is probably related to the hormonal changes in early stages of pregnancy. The degree to which one is affected varies from individual to individual. Although you may not have the appetite, you should still eat a little,” says Dr Lim.
Sure, pregnancy isn’t a time to pile on those unhealthy pounds but that does not mean you have to diet. It’s all about eating healthily. By dieting, you may not be getting all the important nutrients both you and your baby need. One such nutrient is iron, which is extremely important during pregnancy but unfortunately at least one in five women suffer from iron deficiency anaemia at the time of delivery in Singapore. Besides causing symptoms such as fatigue, dizziness and in severe cases, breathlessness, this has been known to cause pre-term birth as well as low birth weight.
However, there are a group of mums who will have to watch what they eat. “There will be some expectant mothers who have gestational diabetes or who have pre-existing diabetes and are required to "watch their diet" as a means to ensure good sugar control. This must be done under supervision of a gynaecologist and qualified dietician,” says Dr Lim.
One of the most important vitamins you’ll need when you’re pregnant is folic acid. This greatly reduces the chance of your baby being born with neural tube defects such as spina bifida and anencephaly. It’s recommended that you begin taking it before you become pregnant but if you didn’t, just make sure you do once you find out.
Another essential vitamin to add to your diet is Vitamin D. Dr Lim says, “It controls the absorption of calcium which is important for healthy bones and teeth in expectant mothers and their babies.” The type of vitamins and supplements and just how much you’ll need depends on your health status and needs. So speak to your gynaecologist before taking any supplements.
Now that you’re preggers it doesn’t mean your exercise regimen gets thrown out the window. In fact, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends 30 minutes of light to moderate physical activity for pregnant women. Keeping fit can help pave the way for an easy delivery as well as prevent preterm complications like excessive weight gain gestational diabetes and preeclampsia.
If you’re wondering if all that exercise will hurt your baby, take things slow and easy. Stick to simple exercises such as walking, swimming and prenatal yoga. Dr Loi advises that it is okay for mummies-to-be to continue to be active during pregnancy as long as the pregnancy is progressing normally. So as long as there is no increased risk of miscarriage, preterm labour or bleeding due to a low placenta, you should be good to go. But do check with your doctor beforehand.