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Get your facts right
Air travel is not harmful to the developing foetus and women who are pregnant (and with no other medical conditions) need not avoid flying during pregnancy. Some airlines may not allow pregnant women onboard if they are in their third trimester, because of the lack of adequate medical facilities in case the woman goes into labour while onboard or mid-flight. Similarly, exposure to the radiation from body scanners and X-ray machines used at security gantries are not significant enough to cause harm to the developing baby.
Sexual intercourse need not be avoided in pregnancy, unless otherwise advised by the doctor. Sexual intercourse during pregnancy does not physically harm the baby, as the baby is fully protected within the amniotic sac and the thick muscular walls of the uterus. Nevertheless, the baby is not protected from sexually transmitted infections including HIV and genital herpes. In addition, intercourse may not be advisable if there's any threat of miscarriage or preterm labour or if there's unexplained vaginal bleeding during pregnancy.
Caffeine-containing beverages (such as coffee, tea, cola, etc.) can be safely consumed during pregnancy, but in moderation. Results from animal studies suggest that excessive caffeine intake may be linked to miscarriage, low birth weight or birth defects like cleft palate. In humans, caffeine is known to cross the placenta but there are insufficient studies to provide conclusive data about the effect of caffeine in human foetuses. Experts recommend limiting the intake of caffeine to 200mg per day. The table below shows some food products which commonly contain caffeine.
Approx. caffeine content
40 – 200 mg
2 – 15 mg
355ml (about 1 can)
30 – 50 mg
75 – 80 mg
14 – 61 mg
25 – 40 mg
Chocolate chips, semi-sweet
Neither the position of the baby in the womb, nor the shape of the mother’s abdomen, tells you the gender of the developing foetus. The only means of confirming the gender of the foetus is through an ultrasound scan.
Women only need an extra 300 calories a day during pregnancy. Over-eating can result in unwanted weight gain which increases the risk of gestational diabetes and high blood pressure for the mother.
Regardless of the food source – vegetable or animal – a balanced diet that includes iron, calcium and a variety of vitamins, is essential for optimal health of the baby and the mother. Women who are vegetarian need to ensure sufficient intake of protein. As for all pregnant women, supplements may be considered for nutrients which are not sufficiently provided for in their diet. Always consult a doctor or pharmacist before taking any health supplement. The table below shows a list of important nutrients and their common sources.
Common food source
Recommended daily intake
Prevents neural tube defects in foetus, and prevents anaemia in mother.
Dark green leafy vegetables, citrus fruits and juices, yeast and meat extracts, liver and beans.
Required for blood formation.
Red meat, green leafy vegetables, legumes, bean curd, nuts, eggs, whole cereals.
Promotes growth of tissues.
Liver, egg yolk, milk, red/ yellow fruits, red/green vegetables
2500 IU(However, supplementation of vitamin A should be avoided in the first trimester as intake of more than 10,000 IU of Vitamin A daily can harm the foetus.)
Food of animal origin eggs, meat, milk. Vegans require supplements to meet the daily requirement.
Increases the absorption of iron from non-animal food source (ie. non-heme iron).
Fresh fruits and vegetables.
50 mg (i.e. about 2 servings of fruit and vegetables daily)
Required for absorption of calcium
Fortified milk, sardines
10 mcgAlso naturally produced in the skin upon exposure to sunlight for 10 – 15min daily.
Required for development of bones and teeth in the baby, and to maintain calcium store in the mother’s body.
Dairy products like milk, cheese and yoghurt (Opt for low/non-fat.)Broccoli, spinach, bean curd. Fish with edible bones such as sardines and ikan bilis
1000 mg (i.e. about 2 cups of high calcium milk or 4 servings of calcium-rich food)
The exact cause of food cravings in pregnancy remains unknown, although researchers theorise that the phenomenon may be linked to hormonal changes, or temporary nutritional deficiencies in the mother. Some women also experience cravings for certain foods despite receiving adequate nutrients for their baby.
Because women in pregnancy need only to consume about 300 more calories per day than their usual intake, giving in too frequently or too much to cravings for high calorie foods may result in excessive weight gain that increases the risk of gestational diabetes and high blood pressure.
In general, when coping with food cravings, the women should be mindful to:
This article was last reviewed on
Wednesday, October 3, 2018
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