Busting pregnancy myths: 6 mistakes most pregnant women make and how to avoid them
Spoiler alert: ‘Eating for two’ might do more harm than good.
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So, what was the advice you received today from your mother, grandmother, sister, aunt, cousin, in-laws, friend or Google — about the right food to eat during pregnancy? Is it another set of confusing information, you are not sure whether to trust?
My advice — talk to your doctor and your dietician and clarify all the doubts. Meanwhile, below is a list of mistakes most pregnant women tend to make, mostly due to misinformation. Make sure you don’t make these.
Mistake 1: Eating for two
Fact: Average weight gain during pregnancy should only be about 10 - 12 kgs (25 pounds). Putting on a lot more weight will increase your chances of hypertension, cholesterol and having a big baby. This also ups your likelihood for having a C-section — or a more difficult delivery. Your body doesn't need more calories to support a developing baby until the second trimester.It is only in the second trimester that you need to eat more calories for the baby, that too, only 300 more each day. (Photo: India Today)
Even then, you need only 300 more a day. Also, the emphasis should be on a low carbohydrate and high-protein diet (whereas, in India, we tend to follow the exact opposite). Please be careful as eating with abandon may even put you at a risk for gestational diabetes.
Mistake: Stopping iron intake
Fact: A lot of women stop iron supplementation due to nausea and constipation during the first trimester. That’s a mistake. The need for iron also greatly increases during pregnancy to support the increase in maternal blood volume, formation of haemoglobin, normal development of the foetal circulatory system, and foetal iron that the baby will continue to use after birth. Iron supplements are usually recommended for all pregnant women. If the discomfort is too much, check with your doctor if you can stop the pills in the first trimester, but start them soon after. A simple solution that works for most women is to take the iron pill at bedtime with juice or water, or with a meal, and increase the fibre in the diet.
A necessary evil: Iron supplements might cause nausea and constipation, but they are necessary as the baby continues to use this iron after birth. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
If you still feel queasy, ask your doctor to prescribe a different formula. Further to boost the iron intake, eat organ meats, lean red meats, dry fruits, cooked dried beans and green leafy vegetables every day.
Mistake: Cutting down on folic acid
Fact: This is not iron’s poorer cousin. It is vital for a pregnant woman as it is essential for the healthy development of the baby's nervous system which occurs during the first 45 days of life (usually, a time when a woman doesn't even know yet that she's pregnant). In fact, if you're planning on having a baby, start focussing on folic acid right away! Folic acid is a B vitamin found in leafy green vegetables like broccoli, spinach, orange juice, legumes, nuts, avocado, liver and fruit and milk. Many breads are now also fortified with folic acid. Some women may need to take a multi-vitamin or prenatal vitamin to meet this requirement. Folate prevents neural tube defects such as spina bifida in your baby and anaemia in the mother.
Green leafy vegetables such as broccoli, spinach, orange juice and milk are rich in folic acid. (Photo: India Today)
A word of caution — don't take supplements without consulting your doctor. Too much vitamin A, B6, C, D, E, or K, or too much zinc, iron, or selenium, can be harmful during pregnancy.
Mistake: Not taking enough calcium
Fact: Calcium is an important mineral that a mother-to-be needs. The current recommended amount of calcium intake during pregnancy is 1,200 mg, an increase of 400 mg a day over your usual needs. An increase in dairy products like skim milk, cheese, yoghurt, puddings etc, is an easy way to consume lots of calcium. Good non-dairy sources of calcium include salmon, broccoli, beans, til, figs, beans, almonds and calcium-fortified orange juice.
Mistake: Skipping breakfast
Your morning sickness may make you want to skip breakfast, but the better thing to do is to ease into food. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
Fact: Pregnant women must eat three small meals and two snacks at regular intervals to help maintain steady blood glucose (sugar) levels. But many women habitually skip breakfast — and that is bad news. If the reason for skipping is morning sickness, ease into food.
Mistake: Consuming wine
Fact: If your doctor has okay-ed an occasional glass of wine — that does not mean you can indulge in alcohol every other day. While a little alcohol won't harm the baby, but research hasn't determined how safe, or rather, unsafe it is. So, it's better to avoid it.