09 DIET IN PREGNANCY

Essential supplements in pregnancy:

  • Folic acid - 0.4 mg/day
    • Essential for baby’s brain and nervous system
    • Higher doses of 5mg/day recommended in ‘high risk’ women, such as those with a previous baby with nervous system development issues (like spina bifida), or if your BMI is more than 30kg/m2.
  • Calcium - 500-1000 mg/day
    • Essential for baby’s bone growth, as well as protecting mother’s bones to prevent future osteoporosis (weak bones)
  • Vitamin D - 10 mcg (400IU) a day
    • For baby’s bone growth and nervous system
    • A lack of vitamin D is associated with low birth weight, preterm delivery, gestational diabetes mellitus and pre-eclampsia (high blood pressure in pregnancy).
    • Higher doses of 800IU - 1000IU a day are recommended if you are at higher risk of deficiency, such as those who have reduced sun-exposure, or high BMI > 30kg/m2
  • Poly-Unsaturated Fatty Acids (PUFA)
    • Good for baby’s brain, nervous system and retina (eye) development, and shown to reduce chance of preterm birth
    • Found in oily fish, nuts, seeds, vegetable oils and green leafy vegetables

Foods to avoid
Certain foods when eaten in pregnancy, are shown to have a higher chance of containing infections that can potentially affect baby. These infections include Salmonella (a form of severe food poisoning), Listeriosis (an infection caught from unpasteurised dairy products which can result in loss of pregnancy and illness in the mother), and Toxoplasmosis (an infection caught from infected meat or cat’s faeces that can cause miscarriage and complications in pregnancy). Even if you have consumed these foods, infection is uncommon, and you only need to see a doctor if you have any symptoms. Other foods may cause complications in the baby and pregnancy, resulting in loss of pregnancies or deformities in baby.

  • Raw foods - including sashimi, meat (esp. poultry), eggs
    • Risk of infections such as salmonella (eggs), listeriosis (uncooked meats)
  • Ripened soft cheeses - e.g Brie, Camembert, blue-veined cheese
    • Soft cheeses carry a risk of listeriosis
    • Cheeses that are allowed include hard cheeses (e.g. Cheddar, Parmesan), cottage and processed cheese
  • Pâté or poorly heated ready-to-eat meals
  • Unpasteurised milk
    • Drink only UHT or pasteurised milk
  • Alcohol
    • Alcohol should be avoided if possible especially in the first trimester, as excessive consumption has been shown to lead to fetal alcohol syndrome (a condition causing brain and motor development problems in babies)
    • If consumed, alcohol should be limited to no more than 1-2 units/week
      (1 unit = 1 pint of beer/1 glass wine/1 (25ml) shot of spirits)
  • Vitamin A
    • Should be limited to 700 mcg/day, as excessive amounts can cause deformities in the baby
    • Vitamin A is found in high amounts in liver and consumption should be avoided especially in the first trimester
  • Methylmercury in fish
    • In view of the potential accumulation of methylmercury content in fish, limit your intake to 2 portions a week
  • Caffeine
    • Excess amounts may lead to a higher risk of pregnancy loss, hence caffeinated drinks should be limited to 1 to 2 cups a day.
    • Caffeine is found in drinks such as coffee, tea, and certain canned drinks

Good food habits

  • Wash all vegetables thoroughly to avoid soil on vegetables
  • Avoid handling garden soil or cat litter with bare hands; use gloves and wash hands thoroughly instead. This is to avoid transmission of toxoplasmosis infection.
  • Constipation
    • Fruits, vegetables, and high fibre foods can help to ease constipation, which is common in pregnancy
  • Nausea
    • Natural remedies like ginger tea can help ease nausea and morning sickness