Your baby’s health is a reflection of how you take care of your body before and during pregnancy. Expecting a newborn is a joyous time and you may be focusing on planning for the arrival of your little one. With all of the special moments that you and your family are looking forward to, it’s very important not to forget about taking care of your own physical and mental health as this will have a great impact on the well-being of your baby.
Whether you are pregnant or planning to conceive, this article will help you to understand the effect of diet and exercise on you and your little one alike.
#1 – Pregnancy and diet
What is a good pregnancy diet?
Since your body now needs nutrients to not only support its own functions, but also support the growth and development of your baby, it is recommended to increase daily energy intake by 340 to 450 kcal per day during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy. In the first trimester, your body needs only a slight increase in calories, but it also depends on the individual circumstances of your pregnancy.
Most importantly, you should remember to eat a healthy variety of foods during pregnancy. Here is what Dr Zara Chan, OT&P’s specialist in Obstetrics & Gynaecology, recommends as a sample balanced diet for women who maintain light physical activity during pregnancy:
- Carbohydrates (3–5 portions*)
- Choose wholegrain varieties
- Vegetables (5 portions)
- High in folate (400mcg), vitamin A (760mcg), calcium (1,000mg)
- Fruits (2–3 portions)
- High in Vitamin B6 (1.9mg) and calcium
- Seafood and meats (5–7 portions)
- Fatty fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids (1.4g), vitamin D (>600IU) as well as protein (71g)
- Shellfish and seaweed high in iodine (220mcg), zinc (11mg), and iron (27mg)
- Meats & poultry high in iron
- Dairy (2 portions)
- High in protein, calcium, vitamins A, D and B12 (2.6mcg)
* one portion is equal to one 250ml cup
Every pregnancy is different
Diet in pregnancy will depend on several factors such as your pre-pregnancy body weight, pre-existing medical diseases, presence of gestational diabetes, and whether you’ll be welcoming one or more babies. If you are vegetarian, have dietary restrictions, or have a BMI of more than 30kg/m2, you should consider seeing a dietician from pre-conception in order to plan an adequate and balanced diet. Although your current health conditions play a huge role in determining your diet during pregnancy, you should also monitor your vitamin levels throughout your pregnancy to make sure your baby is getting enough nutrients.
While following the general guidelines for a balanced diet is a great starting point to your healthy pregnancy plan, it is recommended that you speak to a doctor, especially if you are unsure whether some of your existing health conditions or lifestyle choices may have an impact on your baby.
#2 – Pregnancy and weight gain
What makes up pregnancy weight gain?
Gaining weight during pregnancy is not as bad as you think. In fact, the number you see on the scale represents all the necessary nutrients and resources for your baby to develop into a healthy human being. On average, a 14 kilogram weight gain over the course of pregnancy is distributed into:
- Baby’s weight at birth: ~3.5kg
- Placenta: ~0.7kg
- Increased fluid volume: ~1.8kg
- Increased weight of the uterus: ~1kg
- Increase of breast tissue: ~1kg
- Increased blood volume: ~2kg
- Fat, protein, and other nutrients to support the baby: ~3kg
- Amniotic fluid: ~1kg
How much weight should you expect to gain?
Most of the weight gain will occur in the latter half of pregnancy. Women with a low BMI will gain more weight than those who were overweight pre-pregnancy. Most women will gain between 10 to 16kg over the course of pregnancy. In the second and third trimester, the average weekly weight gain is expected to be between 0.4 to 0.5kg, for women with a BMI less than 25. For women with a BMI over 25, it is expected to be 0.2 to 0.3kg per week.
#3 – Pregnancy and exercise
Why should I exercise when I’m pregnant?
While weight gain is natural and shouldn’t be a reason for you to worry as long as it is monitored by a doctor, exercise during pregnancy is encouraged to prepare you psychologically and physically for childbirth. Exercising during pregnancy helps to promote a sense of wellness as well as strengthen muscles that may be used during childbirth and subsequent childcare.
What types of physical exercise to avoid during pregnancy?
As with most things, you should trust your own intuition and preferences when it comes to exercising during pregnancy. It is absolutely encouraged that you continue with your prior exercise schedule, if you had one. Unless you are a power-lifting fitness professional, most women can continue to carry on exercise that was done pre-pregnancy. That said, new additions of strenuous exercise to your routine should be done a couple of months postpartum. Generally, pregnant women should avoid contact sports, and any exercise on uneven surfaces to prevent sprains on lax joints. Any dehydration or breathlessness means that your baby will also be lacking those vital substances, so avoid any exercise in extremely hot or humid weather conditions. Additionally, you should completely stop any exercise involving laying flat on your back in the 2nd and 3rd trimesters.
How can OT&P help?
It’s important to keep in mind that each pregnancy is different, and each woman’s body will react differently to changes in diet and exercise during pregnancy. If you are ever unsure about something during your pregnancy, always speak to your doctor.
If you would like a little more help and information during your pregnancy, or if you’re trying to get pregnant, at OT&P we have a team of skilled obstetricians and midwives who are experts in maternity care and women's reproductive health in Hong Kong. Simply book an appointment with us.
Alternatively, we also provide maternity packages to help ease the burden of pregnancy. Our packages provide the guidance, education and medical examinations needed for a worry-free childbirth experience. Browse our maternity packages here.