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With the plethora of information available, from the web to books or from someone you know, you may fall prey to misconceptions that have little scientific basis. To put your mind at ease, we will debunk these common pregnancy myths and address the concerns that you may have.

Myth 1: Air Travel During Pregnancy Increases the Risk of Complications.

False.

Air travel is not harmful to the developing foetus and there is no need to avoid flying during a healthy 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 she 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.

Myth 2: Sexual Intercourse Should Be Avoided During Pregnancy as It Can Damage the Womb and the Baby Inside It.

False.

Sexual intercourse need not be avoided in pregnancy, unless otherwise advised by your doctor. Sexual intercourse during pregnancy will not physically harm your baby, as he/she is fully protected within the amniotic sac and the thick muscular walls of the uterus. However, the baby is not protected from sexually transmitted infections including HIV and genital herpes.

In cases where there may be a threat of miscarriage or preterm labour, or if there's unexplained vaginal bleeding, intercourse may not be advisable. Do follow your gynaecologist’s advice.

Myth 3: Seafood Should Be Omitted From Your Diet During Pregnancy as It Contains Toxins Which Are Harmful for Your Unborn Baby.

False.

Seafood provides key nutrients such as protein, iron and zinc. To obtain adequate Omega-3 fatty acids, do consume fatty fish such as salmon, tilapia and seabass as they play a crucial role in your baby’s brain and eye development. By including seafood in your diet, you will also benefit from the lower saturated fat and cholesterol content as compared to consuming fatty meat or processed meat. However, fish that contains high mercury level should be avoided during pregnancy. These include swordfish, shark, king mackerel and bluefin tuna. Avoid having raw fish as that is not healthy for the baby and you.

For a healthy pregnancy diet, aside from consuming seafood, lean meat and other foods such as legumes, beans and tofu are good sources of high-quality protein as well. Be sure to include wholegrains food such as brown rice, wholegrain bee hoon or noodle, and wholemeal bread to your pregnancy diet.

Myth 4: To Prevent Unnecessary Weight Gain Which Stays With Me Post-pregnancy, I Should Go On a Diet and Reduce My Food Intake.

False.

Guidelines for pregnancy weight gain

Please refer to the guide in the table above for pregnancy weight gain.

On top of the recommended daily calorie intake during pre-pregnancy, you require an additional 300kcal per day from the second trimester onwards and 450kcal from the third trimester to ensure sufficient nutrients are available for the optimal growth and development of the baby.

These nutrients include protein, iron, calcium, vitamin B12 and vitamin D; and they can come from lean meat, fish, eggs, and dairy products. Folate (folic acid) is also an important vitamin which is required in a higher amount during pregnancy as it helps to prevent neural tube defects in the baby. Dark green leafy vegetables such as broccoli, spinach and kale are good sources of folate.

Pregnant women who are on vegetarian diet may also lack certain vitamins, such as vitamin B12, and should seek advice from your doctor to obtain the sufficient nutrients required for baby’s growth. As a guide, do avoid raw food and abstain from alcohol for the health and safety of yourself and baby. The additional weight gained during pregnancy could be managed postpartum with a balanced diet and engaging in physical activities.

Myth 5: The Baby's Position in the Womb Can Tell You His/Her Gender.

False.

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.

Myth 6: Pregnant Women Should Eat for Two Persons.

False.

You only need an extra 300kcal a day during pregnancy from the second trimester onwards and 450kcal from the third trimester to ensure sufficient nutrients are available for the optimal growth and development of the baby. Over-eating can result in unwanted weight gain which increases the risk of gestational diabetes and high blood pressure for the mother. To ensure that you obtain the necessary additional nutrients, choose nutrient-rich foods instead of taking foods with empty calories and have little nutritional value, and avoid doubling your meal portion.

Here is a guide on how you may obtain your additional 300Kcal with the following foods that you can include as part of your morning or afternoon snack:

  • 2 slices wholemeal bread, 1 hard-boiled egg and 1 serving of low-fat milk
  • 1 small vegetable bun (45g), 1 hard-boiled egg and 1 serving of low-fat milk
  • 1 English muffin with 1 egg (scrambled)
  • 1 cup of low-fat milk with 5pcs of whole wheat crackers
  • 1 serving of Greek yoghurt with 1 cup of blueberries and 2 tablespoons of chopped walnuts

Myth 7: Women Who Adopt a Vegetarian Diet During Pregnancy Deprives the Baby of Nutrients Required for Proper Development and the Baby Will Be Less Healthy or Smart Than Those Whose Mothers Are Non-vegetarian.

False.

Nutrient

Function

Common food source

Folic acid

Prevents neural tube defects in foetus and prevents anemia in mother.

Dark green leafy vegetables, citrus fruits and juices, yeast and meat extracts, liver and beans.

Iron

Required for blood formation.

Red meat, green leafy vegetables, legumes, bean curd, nuts, eggs, whole cereals.

Vitamin A

Promotes growth of tissues.

Liver, egg yolk, milk, red/ yellow fruits, red/green vegetables

Vitamin B12

Required for blood formation.

Food of animal origin eggs, meat, milk. Vegans require supplements to meet the daily requirement.

Vitamin C

Increases the absorption of iron from non-animal food source (ie. non-heme iron).

Fresh fruits and vegetables.

Vitamin D

Required for absorption of calcium

Fortified milk, sardines

Calcium

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

Regardless of your food source – a balanced diet that includes iron, calcium and a variety of vitamins, is essential for ensuring optimal health of mother and child. Women who are vegetarian need to ensure sufficient intake of protein and some common food sources to obtain them are indicated in the table above. It is possible to include supplements in your diet to ensure sufficient nutrients, always consult a doctor or pharmacist before taking any health supplement.

Myth 8: Food Cravings During Pregnancy Occur Because of a Lack in Specific Nutrients That the Developing Baby Needs From the Mother’s Body. Hence, if the Cravings Are Not Satisfied, the Baby’s Development Will Be Adversely Affected.

False.

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. Giving in to cravings for high calorie foods too frequently may result in excessive weight gain that increases the risk of gestational diabetes and high blood pressure. In general, when coping with food cravings, be mindful to:

  • Go for a well-balanced diet that includes wholegrains, lean proteins, vegetables, fruits and low-fat dairy products each day.
  • Eat regular meals to avoid drastic dips in blood sugar levels which can trigger food cravings. You can consider having 3 main meals with 2 – 3 small snacks in between meals to manage your cravings.
  • Limit the portion size of high calorie food

Myth 9: Miscarriage Normally Occurs Due to Infections or Certain Medical Conditions.

False.

Miscarriages in the first trimester most commonly occur due to chromosome abnormalities in the foetus. Other causes could be due to underlying medical conditions such as uncontrolled severe diabetes, hyperthyroidism or autoimmune disease, which can raise the risk of miscarriage. Stress and high levels of caffeine and alcohol intake can also be contributing factors ( reference: https://www.healthxchange.sg/women/pregnancy/miscarriage-signs-symptoms

Always rely on pregnancy-related information obtained from healthcare professionals and make informed choices as such myths cause unnecessary anxiety to mothers.

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