You’re pregnant, and the whole world has an opinion on what you should or should not be doing. Suddenly, your body is no longer your own: instead, it’s a vessel for the propagation of the species.
It’s now open season for extended family, friends, acquaintances – not to mention complete strangers – to offer advice on whether, how and how much you should exercise; what food, drinks, supplements or chemicals you put into your mouth, your lungs and your bloodstream; even how fat you’re allowed to get!
Pregnancy busybodies are nothing new. What is fairly new, though, is the vast ocean of internet information on every conceivable aspect of pregnancy – useful, admittedly, but also potentially confusing, possibly overwhelming and sometimes just plain wrong.
Thinking it would be helpful to get some advice from medical specialists right here on the ground, we spoke to DR KELLY LOI, Singapore obstetrician, gynaecologist and accredited fertility and IVF specialist. As the mother of three children, she’s the first to agree there are many things to be aware of during pregnancy.
“Do undergo the recommended prenatal investigations,” is her first piece of advice. These would include a first trimester dating scan to confirm when the delivery date is, screening for Down syndrome with the first trimester nuchal translucency scan, and the 20- week foetal anomaly scan.” (More on this later.)
“Do also follow up regularly with your obstetrician,” adds Dr Loi. “During these visits, assessment of your own health, together with the growth and position of the baby, will enable the doctor to provide advice on timing and mode of delivery.”
To enjoy a healthy pregnancy, mothers-to-be should of course observe a healthy lifestyle and diet.
“A mother’s diet does influence the way the baby grows. To ensure that your baby grows well to the maximum of his or her genetic potential, you need a healthy, well balanced diet that includes all the necessary food groups: proteins, healthy fats and carbohydrates – especially fruit and vegetables.”
Even with a healthy diet, supplements are advisable to ensure good levels of certain vitamins and minerals during pregnancy. “These include folic acid to prevent birth defects such as spina bifida, an abnormality of the formation of the spinal cord. Iron and calcium supplements are also recommended.”
What about exercise? “It’s generally a good idea to remain active and fit during pregnancy,” Dr Loi agrees, “but that’s not always the case.” For some high-risk pregnancies, she says, it may be advisable to slow down your exercise regimen – or even stop it altogether.
For the delivery process, you should speak to your doctor about your mode of delivery and options for pain relief. Attending antenatal classes may also be helpful, especially for first-time mothers-to-be.
Let’s take a closer look at two of these topics: firstly antenatal nutrition, and then antenatal risk assessment.