Dr Natalie Chua, from SOG Clinic for Women, Parkway East Medical Centre, answers your pregnancy related questions.
WORDS DR NATALIE CHUA
I have heard that I have increased nutritional needs during pregnancy. How do I ensure that I get enough for both baby and myself?
Optimal nutrition during pregnancy is essential; for not only yourself to cope with the increased demands of childbirth but also for the well-being of your baby. As you embark on this journey, here are some tips on nutrition during pregnancy.
Eat nutritiously, not excessively
• Gaining excessive weight during pregnancy will increase the risk of developing diabetes and high blood pressure during pregnancy. In addition, obese mothers are more likely to require a caesarean section. In the first trimester, no extra calories are needed! Subsequent to that, only 300 extra calories per day are required during the final two trimesters
• It is essential to eat carbohydrates, protein (meat), fruits and vegetables in appropriate amounts.
• Excessive salt can increase thirst and water retention while excessive sugars increases the risk of obesity.
Space out, snack smart
• In the first trimester, mothers may experience morning sickness. As the pregnancy progresses, you might experience heartburn, gastric problems and bloatedness. Try taking smaller portions during main mealtimes with healthy snacks in between. This prevents your stomach from distending to quickly and ensures that your gastric juices always have something to work on.
Anything to add? Folate, Calcium, Iron and DHA
• 400 micrograms of folic acid daily in the first 12 weeks of fetal development has been shown to reduce malformations in the baby’s brain and spinal cord by 75%. This can be given as a supplement and is also found in citrus fruits, green leafy vegetables and lentils.
• Iron is needed for the formation of red blood cells that is needed to carry oxygen in the blood stream. This can be found in green leafy vegetables, red meat, cereals and nuts. Iron is also available as a supplement that can be prescribed by your doctor. Vitamin C, which is found in fresh fruits and vegetables, aids in the absorption of iron.
• Calcium is an essential mineral needed for building baby’s bones and teeth. This is found in dairy products like milk and cheese, nuts, tofu and vegetables like spinach. It can also be supplemented in milk powders that are specially formulated to the growing needs required in mums-to-be.
• DHA is an omega-3 fatty acid that is needed for baby’s brain and eye development. This is mainly found in fish and certain nuts and seeds like walnuts and flaxseeds.
• Constipation is very common in pregnancy. Increase your intake of high fibre fruits and vegetables to prevent this.
• Dehydration occurs more often in expectant mothers and especially in our hot and humid climate. 8-10 glasses of water is recommended to keep you fresh and hydrated.
Foods to avoid in pregnancy
• Raw foods like sashimi, raw oysters, undercooked meat or raw eggs may contain the bacteria known as Salmonella, which can cause food poisoning and dehydration.
• Unpasteurized milk is found in soft cheeses like Blue, Brie and Camembert. These may contain the bacteria called Listeria, which can cause a severe infection in you and your baby, with a chance of stillbirths in 20% of affected babies when it happens during pregnancy.
• Excessive consumption of alcohol can cause growth restriction, prematurity and mental retardation in babies
• Certain types of fish, e.g. shark, swordfish, and king mackerel, may contain higher levels of mercury that can be harmful to your baby. But you can safely eat up to 12 ounces of fish low in mercury (shrimp, salmon, catfish, canned tuna, etc.) per week while pregnant.