Understanding your nutritional needs during pregnancy

Pregnant mums, your bodies are working overtime to nurture that precious little life growing inside of you. You need to be able to support your own body and the growing baby’s development through proper nutrition. Read on to find out more.

The moment that you first find out that you are pregnant, is a life changing one.

A pregnant mum needs to make sure that the growing baby is getting the right nutritional support needed for his development. She also needs to ensure that her own body is strong and healthy enough to support the baby’s growth.

However, a lot of pregnant mums can, at times, be unaware of their own nutritional needs.

We spoke with Dr Lee Keen Whye, Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist at the Gleneagles Medical Centre and founder of Singapore O&G Ltd., to better understand some of the specific nutrition-related issues that pregnant mums should be aware of.

According to Dr Lee, not all pregnant mums take good care of their nutritional needs — this is not because for lack of wanting to do the right thing, but rather a lack of information and understanding.

One example he gives is that of pregnant mums practising unsupervised self-medication of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).

Dr Lee says that while most pregnant mums question the doctor several times about the side effects of common cold and fever medication, they hardly ever ask about the side effects of TCM concoction that they consume. “In some cases, the unsupervised concoctions may do more harm than good to the baby and the mother.”

Get the Right Start to Motherhood

Watch the video below to learn more about the clarifications and advice offered by Dr Lee with regard to a pregnant mum’s nutritional needs.

What your body needs

Good nutrition is essential in ensuring your unborn baby’s growth and development. Some of the most crucial nutrients needed by your body to help support a healthy pregnancy and optimal development of the baby are:

  • DHA for development of baby’s brain and eye. Sources of DHA include algae, fish, nuts and seeds such as walnuts and flaxseed.
  • Choline for baby’s learning and memory and overall mental functioning. The best source for Choline is eggs, followed by milk and nuts.
  • Folic acid to support foetal growth and development and to prevent neural birth defects. Folates are found naturally in green leafy vegetables, lentils and brown rice.
  • Iron to prevent anaemia. To avoid iron deficiency, pregnant mums must add red meat, chicken, eggs, green vegetables, legumes, and nuts into their diet.
  • Calcium to build strong bones and teeth for mum and foetus. Our bodies cannot make calcium, so pregnant mums need to get it from food or supplements. Dairy products such as milk, cheese and yoghurt are excellent sources of calcium.
  • Prebiotics such as Oligofructose are also important as pregnant mums are prone to constipation. Intake of Oligofructose helps increase intestinal bifidobacteria and maintain good gut health.

What your body does not need

If there are some must-dos for pregnant mums, there are also must-avoids when it comes to ensuring a healthy pregnancy. There are certain foods and beverages that can severely compromise the well-being of the mother and the foetus. To ensure the optimal nourishment for the unborn baby, pregnant mums must avoid the following:

  • Alcohol can pass from mother’s blood into the baby’s and can cause mental and physical disorders that can last a life time1. The range of alcohol-related impact on the unborn baby have been classified as fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD).
  • Caffeine should be taken in a limited dosage of 200 milligrams a day if at all. High amounts of caffeine have been linked to low birth weights and preterm birth2. It is a stimulant and can increase heart rate and blood pressure, both of which are not good for you during pregnancy.
  • Excess salt, sugar and fat.
  • Foods that may contain the bacteria listeria, such as soft cheeses, uncooked deli meats, raw meat or fish, and un-pasteurised milk and milk products3.
  • Food high in mercury such as shark, king mackerel, swordfish and tuna4.
mistakes that pregnant mums make

Pregnant mums need to make sure that they are eating enough and drinking plenty of fluids.

How do you ensure absorption of nutrients?

  • Get enough sleep: With all the work that your body is doing during your pregnancy, it needs a lot more rest. Lack of quality sleep can negatively impact your health and also lead to birth-related complications5. Lack of sleep reduces the body’s ability to absorb all the nutrients that it needs to support the growth and development of the baby.
  • Drink enough fluids: You need to drink enough water to keep hydrated. This is important for two reasons: First to keep the digestive system running smoothly and avoid constipation and second, to help in the circulation of all the extra blood that your body is producing during pregnancy6.
  • Eat enough: The average weight gain for a full-term pregnancy is usually around 13kg. While mums are commonly advised not to eat for two, there are also mums who just do not eat enough for fear of gaining too much weight. Being underweight during your pregnancy can cause birth complications7. Be mindful and consume the required amount of calories from healthy and nutritional food choices.

Being well informed about your body’s nutritional needs is the first step towards ensuring a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby. So pregnant mums, take care and ensure that you are eating right, exercising right, sleeping right, drinking plenty of fluids and getting the right nutrients.

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Wyeth Nutrition develops premium-quality nutritional products scientifically-designed to meet the needs of infants and young children, as well as pregnant and lactating mothers. As pioneers in infant nutritional science, our mission is to provide the best nutritional support for future healthy outcomes. For nearly a century, Wyeth Nutrition has leveraged clinical rigor, scientific research, world class manufacturing and product safety standards to drive scientifically-sound solutions that offer parents confidence, help nourish children and support their healthy futures.

References
1. Stratton, K.; Howe, C.; and Battaglia, F. 1996. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome: Diagnosis, Epidemiology, Prevention, and Treatment. Washington, DC: Institute of Medicine, National Academy Press. books.nap.edu/html/fetal

2. Bakker R, Steegers EA, Obradov A, Raat H, Hofman A, Jaddoe VW. 2010. Maternal caffeine intake from coffee and tea, fetal growth, and the risks of adverse birth outcomes: The Generation R Study. American Journal of Nutrition. 91(6):1691-8

3. Vanitha Janakiraman, MD. 2008. Listeriosis in Pregnancy: Diagnosis, Treatment, and Prevention. Reviews in Obstetrics and Gynecology; 1(4): 179-185

4. Stephan Bose-O’Reilly, MD, MPH,a Kathleen M. McCarty, ScD, MPH,b Nadine Steckling, BSc,a and Beate Lettmeier, PhDa. 2010. Mercury Exposure and Children’s Health. Current Problems in Paediatric and Adolescent Health Care. 40:186–215.

5. Michele L. Okun, James F. Luther, Stephen R. Wisniewski, and Katherine L. Wisner. 2013. Disturbed Sleep and Inflammatory Cytokines in Depressed and Nondepressed Pregnant Women: An Exploratory Analysis of Pregnancy Outcomes. Psychosomatic Medicine, DOI: 10.1097/PSY.0b013e31829cc3e7

6. Agnew CL, Ross MG, Fujino Y, Ervin MG, Day L, Kullama LK. 1993. Maternal/fetal dehydration: prolonged effects and responses to oral rehydration. American Journal of Physiology. 264(1 Pt 2):R197-203

7. Kramer MS, Coates AL, Michoud MC, Dagenais S, Hamilton EF, Papageorgiou A. 1995. Maternal anthropometry and idiopathic preterm labor. Obstetrics & Gynecology. 186(5):744-8.