10 PREGNANCY NUTRITION MYTHS BUSTED
We present important facts for a healthy pregnancy
Pregnancy nutrition is an essential part of ensuring your baby grows strong and healthy. Contrary to popular belief, pregnancy cravings don’t necessarily mean you should give in to an indulge. In fact, a craving for certain foods imply you’re lacking in a certain mineral or nutrient. Tanya Khubchandani Vatsa puts your worries to rest by busting these popular myths. Read on to know more...
Every baby is unique and so is every pregnancy and experience. Some women eat fast food and put on no baby weight, while others eat healthy, controlled quantities of food, and can still gain 20 kilograms, or more! However, while every experience is unique, there are an endless number of pregnancy facts that govern how much nutrition you and your baby are able to get, and even more myths surrounding these realities. Below are some of the most common pregnancy nutrition myths, with a reality check.
1 Once pregnant, I can eat for two. True or False? False.
As per the institute of medicine, the calorie requirement during pregnancy is an extra 340 calories per day during the second trimester, and 450 extra calories per day in the third trimester. There are no extra calories required in the first trimester. This is basically an extra banana, glass of milk or healthy sandwich at most. These requirements are also based on your regular caloric intake, not on a 2,000-calorie diet. If you are underweight, your doctor may advise a little more food so that you don’t deplete your own nutrients. With multiples, the calorie per day requirement increases to 300 calories more per child, per day.
2 Having big, heavy meals will give my baby more nutrients. True or False? False.
Having big heavy meals will give you heartburn and increase your nausea (if any), but will not do much for your baby. Smaller, regular meals will keep you feeling fuller, but will also give your baby a consistent supply of energy to grow and to move around. You will eventually find that when you eat something sugary, your baby is even more active than otherwise, because of the spikes in your blood glucose. So, keep the right kind of food going to your little one, but do not overdo it as it can make you feel sick, too.
3 Morning sickness affects how much nutrition my child is getting. True or False? False.
The most confusing thing about morning sickness is why it’s named what it is! Because it can affect a pregnant mother at any point of time, and can sometimes last through the day. It is often triggered by certain foods and smells, and aversions are more than common. The best way to combat it is to avoid long gaps between meals – eat smaller meals that you are able to keep down, consisting of no more than salted crackers or ice cream. The great part about morning sickness is that, in most cases, it eases by 15 to 16 weeks of pregnancy and is not around when you really need to eat and feed your baby those extra calories that you both need. Fortunately for our babies, our bodies are great at extracting nutrients from food, even more so during pregnancy, and more of these are channeled to our baby and placenta, than to us. For example, it is not uncommon for a mother’s calcium level to get depleted (this can result in fractures and tooth decay late in pregnancy, and particularly postpartum or when breastfeeding), while your baby’s bones grow strong and healthy. Therefore, your prenatal vitamins, calcium, D3, folic acid and other essential nutrients are important to replace what your child is taking from you, not just to pass it along to them.
Severe vomiting, or Hyperemesis gravidarum, only affects those who are having girls. True or False? False (with some truth to it)
Hyperemesis Gravidarum is a condition where a pregnant woman suffers from severe, uncontrollable vomiting, nausea, and even loses weight or needs to be hospitalised due to the loss of electrolytes and energy. This is not extremely common and, in many cases, also subsides by the end of the first trimester. In a few cases, however, it sticks around till the end of pregnancy, and unfortunately requires close monitoring by the doctor to ensure the expectant mum is getting enough nutrition for the baby to grow to a safe and normal weight, without compromising the health of the mother further, too. It is true that women who are expecting girls, are more likely to have nausea that does not subside at the end of the first trimester, hyperemesis gravidarum, and more hospitalisations as well. However, this is not a definitive gender test, as this can happen if you are expecting a boy as well.
There is an endless list of foods I cannot eat when pregnant, including sea food, red meat and cheese. True or False? False.
There is a list of things you cannot eat when pregnant, yes. It includes raw or under-cooked food, unpasteurised cheeses, and certain types of fish that are high in mercury. However, low-mercury fish is actually quite healthy since omega-3 and DHA is essential to foetal brain development (and is often given as a supplement). Cheeses can be great for protein and calcium, specially for vegetarians. While you have to avoid goat cheese, blue cheese, brie and Camembert, pasteurised cheeses like Swiss, American, and Cheddar, are absolutely safe. Red meat provides iron which is a much-needed nutrient, and is something that many moms tend to become deficient in by the third trimester. It’s great for you and your little one, as long as it is cooked well.
6 There are certain foods will make my baby fairer and smarter. True or False? False (with a caveat).
There are ample pages online on how drinking saffron milk or consuming ghee, is supposed to make your baby fairer. What affects your baby’s skin colour in utero is their genetic makeup, that’s it. Intelligence again, cannot be determined by what you can eat when pregnant. It is genetic. Research today shows that it is highly correlated with the mother’s intelligence and genes. However, there are certain foods that can boost your baby’s brain development at the foetal stage, so what we eat does affect their mental acuity, just as drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause foetal brain damage. Some of the foods that boost brain development include egg yolks, avocado, fish, nuts, blueberries, iodine and folic acid supplements.
Women who have acid reflux during pregnancy will give birth to hairier babies. True or False? True.
Acid reflux is more than an annoying pregnancy symptom; it can affect how much you are able to eat and retain. Fortunately, it is something that can be managed well with safe over-the-counter medication, and by avoiding certain foods like tomato-based sauces, fried foods and spice. Adding bananas to your diet, especially first thing in the morning, or eating
chia seeds after meals, also helps cut the acid formation. It is true, though, that women with more pregnancy acid reflux, are more likely to give birth to hairier babies. Research done at Johns Hopkins University has shown this to be true, since the same hormone that affects hair growth also relaxes the oesophageal sphincter, pushing food and acid in the wrong direction.
8 Reduce water to avoid going to the bathroom as frequently. True or False? False.
Yes, drinking less water before bedtime will help reduce your night time trips to the bathroom. However, reducing your intake is hazardous. Water is absolutely essential at this stage, not only for your baby but for you as well. It reduces the risk of urinary tract infections and of early labour. It will also help reduce water retention in your feet and hands, and help you feel cooler by keeping away hot flashes. Moreover, the more frequent trips to the bathroom, is not only a result of the water consumed, but is also an outcome of the increased blood flow in the body, making the body produce more urine. Eventually the pressure from the baby’s head and body on the bladder, contributes to this too.
Give in to all my pregnancy cravings, they signal what your body needs. True or False? False.
While you can give into many of your cravings that are safe and harmless, keep in mind the list of foods to avoid. Moreover, pregnancy cravings for certain foods signal the lack of certain nutrients in your pregnancy diet. Moreover, the major hormonal changes in our bodies during pregnancy, can impact our sense of taste and smell and affect what we want to eat. However, there is no conclusive research that shows a link between our body’s needs and what we crave. Under certain medical conditions, a pregnant woman’s cravings can increase. Those with gestational diabetes, crave sweets and sugar to an excessive amount. There is also a condition called pica, which makes you crave strange things like chalk and sand. We recommend you speak to your doctor in these cases and do not give in.
10 Prenatal iron can make me sick. True or False? True.
Yes, prenatal iron and even prenatal vitamins in a certain stage of pregnancy, when you have morning sickness, can make the nausea and even the vomiting worse. In the event that the vomiting does not fade beyond your first trimester, there are several different formulations that can be tried. However, if no alternative works, a quick intravenous drip can be given at regular, weekly or monthly intervals, to replace the body’s iron, and avoid pregnancy anemia. So while pregnancy doesn’t need you to eat much more, it does require you to eat smarter, more nutritious meals, regardless of which trimester you are in. So go ahead, put your feet up and dig in! You will miss your unhurried mealtimes soon enough!