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Nutrition During Pregnancy: Debunking 5 Common Myths

Dr. HelloDox Care #
HelloDox Care
Consult

One of the first changes a woman makes when she learns about her pregnancy is almost always diet related. Expecting mothers are surrounded by many relatives and friends who all offer so many different perspectives on what a pregnant woman should and should not eat that it can be very confusing for the mother-to-be. While our loved ones mean well, mothers-to-be should not follow any advice blindly when it comes to their diet.There are several myths and misconceptions about the kind of food expecting moms should consume and avoid. Here are five common pregnancy diet related myths that are usually spread through word of mouth and often have no scientific rationale:

Myth #1: A Pregnant Mother Should be Eating for Two

It is very common for family members, friends and colleagues to tell a new mother-to-be that she now needs to eat for two because of which pregnant women tend to vastly increase their appetites. This misconception is one of the leading causes of excess weight gain during pregnancy, combined with an inactive or sedentary lifestyle.

As per the recommended requirements, pregnant women only need 300 extra calories a day, which is equivalent to a banana milkshake, a dry fruit milkshake or a two-slice multigrain vegetable paneer sandwich a day. This is definitely not the same as eating for two. The quality of food choices is more important than the quantity of food consumed during pregnancy.

Myth #2: Pregnant Women Should Avoid Fish

Most mothers-to-be avoid consumption of fish due to concerns about toxin build-up, excess heat, skin reactions, etc. However, fish is an excellent source of protein, omega-3 and other important nutrients, which are vital for brain and eye development of the foetus. Pregnant women should avoid fish with a high mercury content such as shark, tuna and mackerel. However, sardines [mathi], anchovies [nethili/natholi], salmon and river fish like rohu and catla can be consumed in moderate amounts to meet dietary needs. If you are a fish lover, consult your nutritionist to see how the right amount of fish can be incorporated into your diet.

Myth #3: Saffron Will Make the Baby's Complexion Fairer

This is one of the most common beliefs and quite an expensive one at that! There are a lot of families that believe that if a pregnant woman has saffron with milk, her baby will have a fair complexion. The truth is that no food can influence the baby's complexion, as the skin colour is entirely determined by the genes of the parents.

Myth #4: Papaya and Pineapple Can Cause Abortions or Miscarriages

These two fruits are completely forbidden in a pregnant woman's diet due to the belief that they can cause abortions and miscarriages. The assumed scientific basis of this myth is that both these fruits in their raw form contain certain enzymes, which if consumed in large quantities, can cause uterine contractions.

However, consumption of well-ripened papaya or pineapple does not cause any adverse reaction, if taken in moderate amounts in a well-balanced diet. However, many gynaecologists refrain from freely recommending it for two reasons - first, moderation is a widely misunderstood term and second, most fruits nowadays are artificially ripened, which can alter the amount of enzymes in the fruits and what is left behind is often unclear.

When pregnant, always check with your nutritionist before consuming papaya or pineapples.

Myth #5: Pregnant Women Can Catch a Flu with Cold and Sour Food Items

Mothers-to-be are often told to avoid citrus fruits, juices, limes, lemons, curd, buttermilk, etc. due to an age-old belief that these foods will cause them to develop cold and cough that will affect the baby too.

But the fact is these foods are loaded with nutritional benefits for the mother and the growing baby. For instance, the entire range of citrus fruits provides Vitamin-C, a very important vitamin for iron-absorption in the mother and skin development of the growing baby.

Curd and buttermilk provide probiotics, which keep the mother's gut healthy and also helps in digestion along with providing gut immunity. Both Vitamin-C and probiotics are two core immunity-boosting nutrients which are required in a pregnant mother's diet, so inclusion of these foods is important.

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What To Eat When You Are Pregnant? | Eating For A Healthy Pregnancy

Dr. HelloDox Care #
HelloDox Care
Consult

A well-balanced outlook to nutrition has far reaching benefits for a long and healthy life. Eating right is important for all of us throughout our lives, but ladies who are planning to become moms or are pregnant need to pay attention to their dietary needs a little bit more. The extras are needed for foetal growth, maternal tissue expansion during pregnancy and for milk secretion during lactation. Eating healthy helps the baby develop and grow healthy. Research has confirmed that the health of an individual is determined by the health of a mother even before conception and that eating patterns have a direct effect on the long term health of a child - from womb to grave. Getting it right during this phase in a woman's life is not all that tough. Nature provides us with enough and more foods loaded with nutrients and health benefits. The density of crucial nutrients may vary in different foods, but it's all easily available around us. So, all that you need to do during pregnancy is have a wide variety of fresh ingredients to ensure wholesome nutrition for the baby and yourself.

Do Pregnant Women Need To Eat For Two?

Do you need to eat for two? Not really. Of course, the nutrient requirements of a pregnant woman do go up; calories to minerals and vitamins are all needed in larger amounts but there is a method to this and does not mean that you need to overeat. Pay attention to eating balanced meals that provide your body with all the essential nutrients in the amounts needed.

How Much Weight Gain is Healthy During Pregnancy?

Pregnancy demands an extra 150Kcal/day in the first trimester and 350Kcals/day in the 2nd and 3rd trimester according to FAO/WHO. For an average Indian woman with a pre-pregnancy weight of 55Kg, ICMR expert group 2010 suggest the following additional calories for a 10 Kg and 12Kg weight gain respectively.

What To Eat When You Are Pregnant | Pregnancy Diet | Healthy Eating During Pregnancy

Carbohydrates are the primary source of energy which is the most important nutritional requirement for our bodies to function at an optimal level. In addition to calories, healthy carb sources also provide vital nutrients like vitamins, minerals and healthy fibre.

Choose Healthy Carb Sources Over Empty Calories During Pregnancy

Unprocessed or minimally processed whole grains like wheat, barley, ragi, oats, bajra and corn are good options to choose from for your pregnancy diet. Legumes, milk, vegetables and whole fruits are also healthy sources of energy rich carbohydrates.

Proteins To Eat During Pregnancy

Proteins are the most important building block of every cell in our body. Pregnant and lactating mothers need a higher amount of protein for the ever increasing volume of blood component in the mother and for optimal development of the baby. NIN (National Institute of Nutrition) suggests an additional 0.5g protein for the first trimester, 6.9g for the second and 22.7g for the third trimester, respectively.

Sources of Protein: Animal proteins are a better quality because they contain all the 9 essential amino acids needed by our body. Lean unprocessed meat, chicken, fish and eggs are all sources of quality protein. In the vegetarian section milk, cheese, paneer and other milk products are the top-of-the-list choices. Legumes and lentils, especially when taken in combination with whole grains assures better quality protein and is enough to provide for healthy protein intake. Nuts and seeds are another source of healthy proteins.

Dairy Products During Pregnancy

Dairy products provide the most important Calcium for a mother-to-be. Calcium is a mineral that the growing foetus requires for proper formation of bones and teeth. Milk is also an essential nutrient for children.

Fruits & Vegetables During Pregnancy

Fruits and vegetables provide the body with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fibre. They help alleviate constipation, a common problem during pregnancy, by adding roughage to the diet. This also helps in better digestive health which means better absorption of nutrients.

Recommended amounts are 5 serving of seasonal fresh fruits and veggies daily.

Fats & Sugars During Pregnancy

Fats and sugars are required to meet the daily calorific targets, though many pregnant women may end up consuming more than is required. The trick lies in selecting the right source and, of course, in the right quantity. Excessive intake of high fat and sugar foods adds up to empty calories which further leads to unhealthy weight gain. Too much of saturated fats may increase your risk of cardiac diseases too.

Sources of healthy fats are peanut oil, sunflower oil, rice bran oil, mustard oil, linseed oil and desi ghee in moderation.


Balancing each meal will help you eat your quota of all essential nutrients.

In the third trimester small frequent meals may be a better option.
Snacking healthy is another way of achieving your nutritional goals. Instead of just reaching out for ready-to-eat snacks choose the traditional homemade ones like ladoo, panjiri, mathis made fresh in small batches. These are still high-fat and sugar-foods so limit the quantities. Other snacks you can choose are roasted nuts, popcorn, bhelpuri, grilled paneer tikka, bhuna chana, dhokla, multigrain bread sandwiches.

Foods To Eat During Pregnancy | Nutritious Foods For Pregnant Women

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How Eating Disorders Affect Pregnancy?

Dr. HelloDox Care #
HelloDox Care
Consult

There are three main types of eating disorders. These are bulimia nervosa, anorexia nervosa and binge eating. Anorexia nervosa is an exaggerated fear of gaining weight all the way to the point when the patient becomes abnormally thin. Bulimia nervosa is eating too much and then vomiting it out on a regular basis. Binge eating is when an individual eats an excessive amount of food in one go. All three types of eating disorders have adverse effects on pregnancy.

Here is how eating disorders affect pregnancies:

1. Unplanned pregnancies: Women with eating disorders are much more likely to have an unplanned pregnancy. This is true both for women who had eating disorders in the past as well as women who have eating disorders at the moment. In a study by University College London and King's College London consisting of 11000 women showed, only 28% of women reported that they had an unplanned pregnancy without suffering from any eating disorder as compared to the 41% who did have an eating disorder at some point in their life. The reason for this is that women tend to think that they do not need contraceptives due to an irregular menstrual cycle, which is one of the consequences of eating disorders during pregnancy.


2. Happiness about their pregnancy: The same survey of 11000 women conducted by University College London and King's College London reported that 71% of women were happy about their pregnancies. However, the number would have been a lot higher if there were fewer women with eating disorders. It has been said that 10% of women were unhappy to discover they were pregnant, if they had an eating disorder in the past as compared to 4% who never had an eating disorder.

3. Consider pregnancy a 'personal sacrifice': It has also been said that women who have had or have eating disorders during or before their pregnancy tend to consider pregnancy as a 'personal sacrifice' much more often than women who have no history or eating disorders.

Even though mostly, eating disorders affect pregnant women mentally rather than physically, it is crucial that women try to fix this problem before their pregnancy so they actually can enjoy having a baby.

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Eating Disorders - Understanding Its Impact On Pregnancy!

Dr. HelloDox Care #
HelloDox Care
Consult

There are three main types of eating disorders, these are bulimia nervosa, anorexia nervosa and binge eating. Anorexia nervosa is an exaggerated fear of gaining weight all the way to the point when the patient becomes abnormally thin. Bulimia nervosa is eating too much and then vomiting it out on a regular basis. Binge eating is when an individual eats an excessive amount of food in one go. All three types of eating disorders have adverse effects on pregnancy.

Here is how eating disorders affect pregnancies:

1. Unplanned pregnancies: Women with eating disorders are much more likely to have an unplanned pregnancy. This is true both for women who had eating disorders in the past as well as women who have eating disorders at the moment. In a study by University College London and King's College London consisting of 11000 women showed, only 28% of women reported that they had an unplanned pregnancy without suffering from any eating disorder as compared to the 41% who did have an eating disorder at some point in their life. The reason for this is that women tend to think that they do not need contraceptives due to an irregular menstrual cycle, which is one of the consequences of eating disorders during pregnancy.


2. Happiness about their pregnancy: The same survey of 11000 women conducted by University College London and King's College London reported that 71% of women were happy about their pregnancies. However, the number would have been a lot higher if there were fewer women with eating disorders. It has been said that 10% of women were unhappy to discover they were pregnant, if they had an eating disorder in the past as compared to 4% who never had an eating disorder.

3. Consider pregnancy a 'personal sacrifice': It has also been said that women who have had or have eating disorders during or before their pregnancy tend to consider pregnancy as a 'personal sacrifice' much more often than women who have no history or eating disorders.

Even though mostly, eating disorders affect pregnant women mentally rather than physically, it is crucial that women try to fix this problem before their pregnancy so they actually can enjoy having a baby.

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Four Things Pregnant Women Should Avoid

Dr. HelloDox Care #
HelloDox Care
Consult

For an expecting mother, nothing is more important than the safety and well-being of her unborn child.

Read on to find out the 4 things pregnant women must avoid at all costs in order to have a safe pregnancy.

Abdominal X-rays: Abdominal X-rays during pregnancy are a big no. This kind of X-ray exposes the abdomen of the mother, and the baby as a consequence, to high levels of radiation, which can cause changes in the baby's rapidly growing cells. As a result, the baby's chances of suffering from birth defects or certain cancers, such as leukaemia later on in life, increase rapidly. It is best to avoid X-rays until absolutely necessary. However, you must avoid self meditation.

Alcohol: All types of alcohol must be avoided during pregnancy. Consumption of alcohol during these 9 months has been associated with several birth defects such as poor growth, learning disabilities and mental retardation. In worst case scenarios, excessive alcohol consumption during pregnancy can lead to what is known as Foetal Alcohol Syndrome or FAS, which severely affects the mental development and physical growth of the unborn child, particularly of the face and skull. Also, you must quit smoking.

Caffeine: It's wise to avoid coffee, tea or even sodas that contain caffeine, as it can adversely affect the baby's heart rate. Some studies go on to suggest that the consumption of caffeine may even increase the risk of miscarriages. Not only that, the intake of caffeine by the mother can increase the chances of the baby getting diabetes. So anything that contains caffeine must be avoided at all costs.

Heavy exercising: While moderate exercising during pregnancy is very healthy for both the baby and the mother, extreme exercising can give rise to quite a few complications. Exercises, which cause the heart rate of the mother to exceed the mark of 160 bpm (beats per minute) may result in the supply of less oxygen to the baby. This can lead to foetal hypoxia, a condition in which the supply of oxygen to the brain of the baby is restricted, resulting in brain damage. Exercises that must be avoided include abdominal crunches, exercises that hurt the mother's joints or strain her back or which require her to hold her breath for too long.

Dr. S K  Toke
Dr. S K Toke
DNB, Pulmonologist General Physician, 11 yrs, Pune
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Dr. Vijay U. Jadhav
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Dr. Rahul Pawargi
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Dr. Dhananjay Ostawal
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Dr. Vishwas Takale
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