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Healthy Eating During Pregnancy & Breastfeeding

We all know the importance of eating right during pregnancy and while breastfeeding a child.  In this article, we are privileged to have Dr Jeanette Chen,  director of Jeanette Chen Women’s Clinic Pte Ltd at Thomson Medical Centre, to share with us the importance of nutrition during pregnancy and breastfeeding.  Dr Jeanette has been in the field of Obstetrics and Gynaecology for more than 14 years and practiced in the United Kingdom and Singapore.

There are many beliefs about the right food for pregnant mothers. Dr Jeanette, what are the important nutrients pregnant mothers should take to ensure her baby’s healthy development and growth?

Pregnant women should have a well-balanced diet to provide mother and baby with adequate supply of energy, nutrition and protective elements. This is to ensure the baby’s good growth and development as well as to maintain the mother’s health. Important nutrients for pregnant mothers include vitamins and minerals such as Folate, GA, DHA, Calcium & iron.

Why is it necessary for pregnant women to consume certain nutrients more than their usual food intake?

Pregnant women need additional intake of nutrients as substantial transfer of essential nutrients occurs between the m other and the baby. For example, intake of high calcium-containing foods like milk and milk products must be increased as the baby draws on the mother’s store of calcium. Similarly, the demand for iron and folic acid are also increased for blood formation and development of the foetal central nervous system.

Important nutrients are lost during food preparation and storage. Also many pregnant women have nausea and loss of appetite. How can pregnant mothers ensure their dietary intake meets the requirements of all important nutrients?

Most nutrients are found in food. However, water soluble vitamins if soaked too long in water, boiled, deep-fried or baked would lose their effect. By taking nutrient fortified foods such as fortified milk, pregnant mothers can supplement certain nutrients that are deficient in their diet. Her doctor may also prescribe some medication for nausea.

Many know the importance of nutrition during pregnancy. However, nutrition during breastfeeding is equally important. Dr Jeanette, please explain to us the importance of nutrition for breastfeeding mothers and what these nutrients are.

For breastfeeding mothers, nutrients are needed to maintain her health and for feeding the baby. Important nutrients for breastfeeding mothers include Calcium, Vitamin D3 and Iron. Additionally for baby, the breastfeeding mother’s diet needs to support the increased need for certain micronutrients in breast milk such as GA, DHA, SA, Thiamin (B1), Riboflavin (B2), Niacin (B3) and Vitamin B12.

This article appeared in Singapore’s “Motherhood“, March 2010, and “Mother and Baby“, March 2010, “HEALTHY EATING DURING PREGNANCY & BREASTFEEDING”.

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