When should I take folic acid? What exercise can I do when pregnant? What about flying?
These were some of the questions that were posed to Associate Professor Tan Thiam Chye, Head and Senior Consultant, Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital at the I Love Children’s Know Your FERTILITY WELLNESS roadshow talk at Waterway Point on 15 July 15 2017.
The best diet for pregnant women incorporates food high in folic acid as this is crucial in preventing birth defects. Yet, most pregnant women do not consume enough of it.
The primary reason for this is that many women become pregnant by accident.
Since folic acid comes from plant sources and most of us do not eat enough vegetables on a regular basis, the levels of folic acid in a woman before pregnancy is relatively low.
So when a woman does get pregnant, there is an urgent need to increase her levels of folic acid.
Assoc Prof Tan advises, “Women should start consuming folic acid three to six months before trying to conceive.”
Do not be alarmed if pregnant women do not have good appetites in the first trimester, as the placenta which transfers nutrients from mother to baby is not formed yet.
The nutrients for the baby during this period come from the yolk sac he/she is attached to inside the uterus. What is crucial during this period is to ensure the mother is well hydrated.
“There’s nothing to worry if you feel bloated and nauseous in the first trimester.” ~ Assoc Prof Tan
It is a popular old wives’ belief that eating papayas and pineapples during pregnancy is dangerous.
Assoc Prof Tan advises against eating any food or fruit in excess. Instead, he stresses the benefits of eating in moderation for a healthy pregnancy.
It is also important to listen to your body. If eating certain foods cause you to have cramps, avoid eating them till you have given birth.
“During pregnancy, your body knows what food it needs and what it doesn’t.” ~ Assoc Prof Tan
Sugar and Caffeine
There are two foods that Assoc Prof Tan cautions pregnant women from consuming too much – sugar and caffeine.
Too much sugar can cause gestational diabetes, which is a real threat for women above 35.
There is also more evidence in recent years to support that excessive consumption of caffeine is unhealthy for pregnancies in its first trimester.
Miscarriages and Flying
It is unfortunately prevalent that 25 to 30 percent of women suffer miscarriages in their first trimester, because the pregnancy is very fragile at this stage.
Pregnancies can be unstable in its first trimester and sufficient rest must be prioritised.
Assoc Prof Tan advises against flying in the first trimester but you can resume in the second trimester, up to week 35 of the pregnancy.
To reduce joint aches and soothe muscular discomfort, Assoc Prof Tan encourages pregnant women to have regular soaks or swims.
The buoyancy of being in the water allows pregnant women to feel lighter despite the extra weight which in turn reduces muscular fatigue and joint stiffness, bringing about much relief.
“Swimming allows pregnant women to stay fit and alleviates some of their physical discomforts.” ~ Assoc Prof Tan
Ways to find out if you are ovulating:
1) Monitor your menstruation cycles
If the length between most of your menstruation cycles are about 28 days (+/- 4 to 5 days), you are probably ovulating. If the length of your menstruation cycles is highly varied, consult a gynaecologist.
2) Take your basal body temperature
Your basal body temperature is usually lower before you ovulate and higher after you ovulate. The best period to conceive is right after your basal body temperature drops and before it increases again.
3) Use an over-the-counter ovulation prediction kit
These kits are widely available at pharmacies and each come with their own set of instructions.
4) Check your cervical mucus
Some women will have transparent, egg-white like cervical mucus when they are ovulating.
5) Visit a gynaecologist to get a tracking of your follicles
This is the most reliable and trusted option for couples who intend to conceive naturally.
Input by Dr Peter Chew, Senior Consultant, Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Chairman of aLife and board member of ILC
Q & A
1) Does obesity lower the chances of pregnancy?
Yes. Obesity in men results in higher levels of estrogen consequently leading to a poor sperm count and/or erectile dysfunction.
Obesity in women may result in irregular periods which also means irregular ovulation, decreasing the chances of pregnancy.
2) Is it normal to have cramps and pains in the first trimester of a pregnancy?
Yes, it is normal because the uterus is expanding to make room for the growing baby.
If your contractions are mild and there is no bleeding, reduce your activity levels and rest more. However, if you experience bleeding, go for a checkup immediately.
3) Can pregnant women eat seafood other than fish?
Yes. However, avoid raw food as the bacteria in them can have dire consequences on your pregnancy.
4) How long do I have to wait after a miscarriage to get pregnant again?
It is recommended for women who suffer a miscarriage to wait for three months before trying to get pregnant again. It is also important to find out the reason behind the miscarriage before trying again.
5) What is the possibility of getting pregnant after an ectopic pregnancy?
It is crucial to find out the reason for the ectopic pregnancy. For example, in some cases, one fallopian tube might need to be removed to save the mother’s life.
I Love Children would like to thank Assoc Prof Tan Thiam Chye, Head and Senior Consultant, Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital, for supporting the ILC Know Your FERTILITY WELLNESS campaign.