Myths and Facts in Pregnancy

With information overload about lifestyle practices to follow in pregnancy, it is no wonder that pregnant women are sometimes overwhelmed and confused about what they can or cannot practise. Let Dr Kelly Loi, Obstetrician & Gynaecologist at Mount Elizabeth Hospital, separate the myths from the facts of living with pregnancy.

Q. I'm eating for two ,so i should eat twice as much food

A. It is true that what you eat during pregnancy has an important impact on your developing baby. However, this does not equate to eating twice the amount of food. It has been calculated that during pregnancy, your calorie intake should increase by just around 300 calories. It would be good to obtain these calories by eating more healthy foods.

Q. I don't need to take vitamins until I know that I'm pregnant

A. Vitamins play a vital role very early in foetal development, and this begins even before you know that you are pregnant. It would therefore be ideal if women trying to get pregnant start taking a prenatal vitamin as soon as they plan to conceive. This will ensure adequate storage of the vitamins necessary in early foetal development. To prevent certain birth defects such as spina bifida in particular, it is recommended that at least 400mcg of folic acid should be consumed daily from the time you are trying to conceive up to three months of pregnancy.

Q. One little drink won't hurt my baby

A. At this time, the general consensus is that there is no amount of alcohol that can be considered safe for the growing baby. Of course, the larger the consumption the greater is the risk. However, the best thing for the baby is to stay away from alcohol entirely.

Q. Fish and other seafood should be avoided in pregnancy

A. Pregnant women can certainly get dizzy from trying to follow the debate on fish consumption. On one hand, fish has been promoted as a good source of omega-3 fatty acids which are good for the foetus. But on the other hand, mercury and other contaminants in fish can be harmful.

Evidence suggests that it is best to avoid deep sea fishes like swordfish, mackerel, shark, tilefish and albacore tuna which may contain high levels of mercury. Other seafood which should be avoided include oysters and other shellfish unless they have been thoroughly cooked. This is because when they are raw, these types of seafood might be contaminated with harmful bacteria, viruses or toxins and could make you ill. These germs are usually killed by proper cooking, but if toxins are present they will not be removed by cooking.

Most common germs that cause food poisoning may make you ill, but are unlikely to have any direct effects on your baby. Listeria, however is a type of food poisoning bacteria that can actually harm the unborn baby. Listeria can be found in raw or undercooked meat, as well as undercooked eggs, unpasteurised soft blue cheeses, and any type of pate. These foods are therefore best avoided.

Q. Papayas and pineapples cause miscarriages

A. Fruits which are ripe and sweet including papayas and pineapples, are generally safe to eat. Raw papayas and pineapples may contain a substance that can induce miscarriages but only if consumed in very large amounts. A miscarriage usually occurs because there is an abnormality in the foetus.

Q. Spicy foods are unsafe in pregnancy

A. Spicy foods are safe for your baby, but they can aggravate heartburn. However, if you feel happy and comfortable eating spicy foods, there is no reason why not to enjoy them!

Q. Hair colouring cannot be done in pregnancy

A. There is insufficient data regarding the safety of hair colouring or treatments like chemical rebonding. When it comes to hair treatments, it may be best to avoid chemicals that touch the scalp. Once the chemical comes in contact with the scalp, it may be absorbed into the bloodstream and reach your baby. Hair strands are actually dead tissue with no blood vessels. Applying chemicals only to the hair strands means that the risk of these chemicals going to the bloodstream is minimal. Also, try to avoid inhaling the fumes and make sure the salon is well-ventilated.

Q. Make-up and face creams shouldn't be used in pregnancy

A. As with your diet, some caution is required in choosing what to apply on your skin as certain ingredients can get absorbed into the bloodstream. The two main compounds to avoid in skin care products are retinoids and salicylic acid.

Retinoids are a type of vitamin A. Studies have shown that high doses of vitamin A during pregnancy can be harmful to an unborn child. Certainly, oral retinoids, such as isotretinoin, an acne treatment, are known to cause birth defects.

Salicylic acid is a mild acid used to treat certain skin disorders, including acne. It is in the aspirin family and can also help reduce inflammation or redness. High doses of the acid in its oral form have been shown in studies to cause birth defects and various pregnancy complications. Small amounts applied to the skin — such as a salicylic acid-containing toner used once or twice a day — are probably safe, but face and body peels containing salicylic acid may be associated with significantly more absorption into the bloodstream and are best avoided.

Join our Mothers-Get-Together session on "Celebrating Motherhood" to learn more about:

  • Childbirth preparation
  • Banking your newborn's cord blood
  • Breastfeeding
  • Tips on caring for your newborn (vaccinations and conditions affecting newborns)

Date: 16 April 2011, Saturday
Time: 2.00pm - 5.00pm
Venue: Gleneagles Hospital
Lecture Theatre, Level 3
Admission is free. To register, call 6471 2002
or visit

This session is organised by StemCord and supported by ParkwayHealth.

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3 Mount Elizabeth, #15-16,
Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre
Singapore 228510
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