Let’s Talk Pregnancy!
Pregnancy questions? Get the scoop on what to expect and pregnancy nutrition tips from GNC mummy nutritionists!
Pregnancy is a life-changing journey.
From the moment, parents-to-be learn about the new life they have made, to getting through the first trimester – morning sickness and all
, feeling that first flutter of movement that evolves into tiny kicks,
right down to the moment of birth and the euphoria of seeing your precious little one for the very first time;
pregnancy is truly a miraculous experience.
Most first-time mums will have many burning questions. Most of these questions relate to food, nutrition and understanding the physical changes that they will experience over the course of 9 months.
Common questions will include:
➢ What foods should I eat?
➢ What foods should I avoid?
➢ What should I do if I get morning sickness?
➢ What are the supplements that I should take during pregnancy?
➢ What is the recommended food intake during pregnancy?
To answer these questions, we spoke to our nutritionists who have gone through pregnancy, including one who is a happy mummy-to-be in her second trimester.
So read on to find out all the interesting pregnancy insights, we’ve uncovered just for you!
Our Panellist of “Mummy Nutritionists”
- Mary Au Yong, Mother of a 3-year old girl
- Grace Lin, Mother of two boys, aged 4 and 7
- Esther Yee, First-time Mummy-to-be, in her 2nd trimester
1. Coming from a nutritionist’s perspective, what are some foods that you would recommend to include in a pregnant mummy’s diet?
Mary: Include nutrients-dense foods such as eggs, vegetables, wholegrains, fish & lean meat, fruits & berries, and dairy products.
It can get tempting to give in to our pregnancy food cravings and frequent hunger pangs, so try to keep healthy snacks at hand, e.g. wholegrain/wholemeal crackers, unsalted baked nuts and seeds, or yoghurt, and remember to snack in moderation.
Eating frequent but smaller portions e.g. having up to 6 small meals versus 3 or 4 heavy meals can actually help with blood glucose control in preventing energy slump or wanting to eat more subsequently. For some pregnant mummies, they may find that smaller meal portions can help with indigestion problems such as belching, bloating and heartburn.
2. Are there any foods that you would recommend pregnant mummies to avoid during their course of pregnancy?
Grace: It is definitely recommended to avoid raw foods or foods that have not been properly cooked to reduce the risk of food/bacteria poisoning. Unpasteurized cheese is an example. If you enjoy salads, it is recommended that you prepare the salad yourself, making sure to wash the vegetables properly. Half-boiled eggs and steaks that are not prepared well-done should be on your “to-avoid” list too. Personally, I am careful when it comes to sugar-intake and will exercise portion control when indulging in sugar-laden foods like cakes, ice-cream, durian as I wanted to ensure healthy and not excessive weight gain during pregnancy, and also to reduce the risk of getting gestational diabetes.
Listeria is also a bacteria present in some foods that pregnant mummies are advised to watch out for. More information on Listeria and associated foods can be found on: https://www.healthline.com/health/pregnancy/infections-listeria#prevention
Mary : One common question that pregnant mummies might have could be on the consumption of herbal foods and preparations during pregnancy. As there is no standard recommendation and guidelines on the use of herbs during pregnancy, it is best to check with certified professionals like TCM physicians and your gynaecologist prior to consumption.
In general, ginger root and peppermint leaves are natural ingredients that been found to be helpful and beneficial for mummies in reducing nausea and morning sickness symptoms.
American Pregnancy Association recommends avoiding the following herbs during pregnancy:
|Saw Palmetto,||Fenugreek,||Uva Ursi,|
3. Morning sickness is a common symptom that most pregnant mummies might experience in varying degrees. Do you have any nutrition, food and supplement advice to help pregnant mummies who might currently be experiencing a tough time over morning sickness?
Mary: I had both morning and evening sickness when I was pregnant.
For pregnant mummies who are experiencing morning sickness, some crackers or nuts before you get out of bed might help,
as an empty stomach can trigger nausea in the morning.
In case of vomiting, it is recommended to replenish hydration levels by sipping water and eating a banana which can
help to prevent dehydration and avoid the onset of headache.
Ginger can help too as it have been found to reduce nausea and vomiting.
Other foods to try include:
- Simple soups like chicken or vegetable broths like minestrones
- Dishes that contain ginger
- Pasteurized yoghurts
- Peppermint tea
One supplement that might be helpful is GNC Women’s Prenatal Tummy Comfort. This prenatal formula contains B6 vitamins as well as Peppermint leaf powder and Ginger paste extract to reduce digestive discomforts during pregnancy, alleviate morning sickness symptoms and help relieve nausea and vomiting.
Esther : Taking a Probiotics formula that is suitable for use during pregnancy can help to improve digestion and overall immunity as well. With constipation and diarrhea being two frequently experienced common discomforts during pregnancy, the use of probiotics can help pregnant mummies to alleviate digestive related discomfort, and the presence of beneficial bacteria in the digestive and gut system can help to defend against bad bacteria.
4. What are some supplements that are especially important during pregnancy or even before when couples are planning to get pregnant?
Grace: I started taking a Prenatal Multivitamin when we embarked on our family planning. My husband was duly ‘influenced’ by me to take his Multis as well. I believe that when we prepare our body well by ensuring our body has the nutrients it needs, it helps with conceiving successfully and thereafter a smoother pregnancy journey. Eating a healthy and balanced diet is important, but it can be difficult to keep up on a daily basis. Sometimes despite my best efforts, I find that I am not be eating as well-balanced meals as I should, so for me – prenatal Multis is how I ensure my body gets the nutrients it needs to fill in any nutritional gaps.
As I experienced severe pregnancy fatigue during my second pregnancy which made me at times feel too tired to even eat a proper meal, I supplemented with Royal jelly which is high in nutritional value, including B vitamins & amino acids that helps to improve energy levels. This is however not recommended for persons with allergy to bee products or someone with a history of asthma. The rule of the thumb is, if you have any concerns or questions, always consult your gynaecologist prior to consumption.
Mary: Folic acid is a basic essential nutrient that couples preparing for pregnancy should definitely look at taking to reduce the risk of spina bifida. A convenient way of ensuring your body has sufficient presence of Folic Acid is to take a daily multi that provides the recommended daily amount of Folic Acid in the formula.
American Pregnancy Association shares in an article that “Spina bifida is best prevented by taking 400 to 800 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid every day. Studies have shown that if all women who could become pregnant were to take a multivitamin with the B-vitamin folic acid, the risk of neural tube defects could be reduced by up to 70%.”1
Folic acid is a water-soluble B-vitamin that helps build healthy cells, but it does not stay in the body for long. It is important that women take folic acid every day, as soon as they plan to conceive, to help reduce the risk of neural tube defects.
In addition to folic acid, I find that supplementing with DHA helps with “pregnancy brain”. Some women might find themselves being more forgetful or having shorter attention spans during pregnancy. Some might experience what we term as “mental fogginess”. DHA is important as Omega-3 fatty acid is involved in the development of baby’s nervous system, brain and vision. DHA intake also benefits the pregnant mum’s cognitive function and helps in reducing the risk of pre-term birth.
Fish oil has been studied to be healthful for men who are trying to conceive a child as well. Studies have shown that the consumption of fish oil is linked to better sperm quality and higher testosterone levels 5 .
Esther: I am currently taking a prenatal DHA formula , prenatal Multis as well as Calcium and Vitamin D supplements .
I would like to share that I actually started taking prenatal Multis not long after I got married, even before my husband and I started on our family planning. I feel that it is important to take a good prenatal multi to ensure the body has everything it needs at the “point of conception” because many women don’t know they’re pregnant until they’re well into 5 weeks. So taking a good prenatal multi is like having good insurance coverage to me.
5. Is there a recommended daily calorie range that pregnant mums should consider as a gauge to ensure they are eating well,
at the same time not overly consuming calories that may lead to unhealthy pregnancy weight gain and gestational diabetes?
Based on an article on “Nutrition during Pregnancy” published on healthhub.sg - Most pregnant mummies should expect a weight gain of between 10 – 12 kg by the time they are ready to deliver their baby. Mummies who are expecting twins or triplets will require more nutrition.
“During pregnancy, your energy requirement increases by about 300 kcal a day, which is not much compared to the average non-pregnant Singapore woman’s requirement of 1700 kcal a day. On the other hand, requirements for other nutrients (e.g. protein, folate, calcium, and vitamin D & B vitamins) may be significantly higher than in the non-pregnancy state. As such, you should make smart choices by choosing a variety of nutrient-dense foods, rather than just eating more food! This is especially important for pregnant mummies who might find their appetite is reduced during pregnancy3.”
6. Are there any foods that I should consume while breastfeeding to improve the quality or amount of my breastmilk?
Mary: I would recommend eating fish and vegetables that are prepared using healthier methods of cooking such as steaming and braising. It is especially important for breastfeeding mums to drink enough water. While there are no specific guidelines on how much water lactating mothers should drink, a good rule of thumb is to drink enough so that you do not feel thirsty or get dehydrated.
Grace: I personally feel that different foods may have different effects on everyone when it comes to boosting milk supply. For me, I found that durian and salmon are the foods that work for me. I also continued taking my prenatal Multis, calcium and DHA supplements during lactation.
7. Any foods to avoid during breastfeeding?
Esther: Don’t laugh at me, but as an eager first-time mum-to-be, I’ve actually just done some research on foods to avoid during breastfeeding!
Here’s a list of foods to avoid while breastfeeding 4 :
• Avoid fish that is high in mercury content.
• Excessive caffeine as too much caffeine could overstimulate your baby.
• If you can, it’s safest to abstain from alcohol during breastfeeding, or if you must, make sure to time your drink so there’s time for the alcohol to dissipate by the time you are ready to give your LO his/her next milk feed.
*There’s an old wives’ tale that drinking dark beers can help to increase your milk supply, but contrary to that tale, studies suggest that alcohol can inhibit milk production.
8. For breastfeeding mums who have concern over their breastmilk supply, what are some supplements or foods that can be considered to help boost milk supply?
Mary: I supplemented with Fenugreek while breastfeeding as my milk supply only kicked in after 5 days and I was concerned that I might not have enough milk. When I came back to work after my maternity leave, I experienced a decrease in my milk supply. This could have been due to stress from being apart from my baby, but I found that continuing with my fenugreek supplement and looking at my baby’s picture while expressing milk helped to regulate and improve my milk supply.
Grace : A lesser known ingredient or supplement that can be helpful to breastfeeding mums is Lecithin. Lecithin helps to emulsify fat so it can help to reduce the viscosity of the milk for better drainage from our milk ducts, thus prevent blockage. Lecithin also contains choline which is an essential nutrient for brain development.
Esther: I think that calcium is an important mineral that breastfeeding mums should not overlook as well. During breastfeeding, baby obtains calcium from mummy’s breastmilk. This calcium is derived from mummy’s calcium store which means it will need to be replenished in order to avoid breastfeeding mums from facing calcium deficiency or having to withdraw calcium deposited in the bones which can negatively affect the mummy’s overall bone health. As such, I would recommend breastfeeding mums to be conscientious in ensuring they consuming sufficient calcium-rich foods and/or taking a calcium supplement.
Pregnancy is a wonderful experience and we hope that the tips and insights shared in this issue will be useful and interesting to you as you embark on your parenthood adventure!
1 Spina Bifida: Effects, Risks, Diagnosis, and Prevention - https://americanpregnancy.org/birth-defects/spina-bifida/
2 Prevent Infections during pregnancy: https://www.cdc.gov/features/prenatalinfections/index.html
3 Nutrition during pregnancy: https://www.healthhub.sg/live-healthy/928/pregnancy-nutrition-during-pregnancy-eating-right-for-two
4 Foods to avoid while breastfeeding: https://www.babycenter.com/404_are-there-any-foods-to-avoid-while-breastfeeding_8906.bc
5 Fish Oil Supplements Might Help Men Become Dads: https://www.usnews.com/news/health-news/articles/2020-01-17/fish-oil-supplements-might-help-men-become-dads