Women often wonder whether it is alright to consume alcohol during pregnancy or whether coffee should be consumed, or how much of vitamins intake is appropriate, how many cigarettes are ‘safe’ during pregnancy etc etc. Adequate nutrition support and knowledge of the do’s and don’ts influence the health of the mother and growth of the foetus during pregnancy.
Alcohol : There is no doubt about the fact that consuming alcohol during pregnancy endangers the foetus. It affects the fetal brain in two ways. It enters the placenta and robs the fetal brain of oxygen and nutrients. The result may be facial malformations like cleft palate, heart defects, abnormalities of the skull, growth retardation, hyperactivity, poor co-ordination of motor activities etc. It not only deprives the mother of essential nutrients, but also damages the tissues of the developing embryo. The fetus has an immature detoxification system & the fetal blood levels of alcohol remain high long after it has disappeared from the mothers blood, thus damaging its cells. Researchers, have not been able to specify a ‘safe’ level of alcohol intake because every woman responds differently to varying levels of intake and she needs to drink only in excess of her livers capacity to detoxify alcohol which could be one drink a day or 1-2 drinks a week. It is for this reason that pregnant women should drink absolutely no alcohol. Even women who are planning to conceive should avoid alcohol completely.
Medications : Pregnant mothers should not take any medication without consulting their physicians. This is especially important in the case of asprin, unless specified by a doctor as it may cause bleeding problems. Most medicines pass easily through the placenta and may affect fetal development. Therefore pregnant mothers should be careful and consult their doctors before taking medicine.
Coffee : and other beverages containing caffeine should be taken in moderation. Although research studies have not proved any harmful effects to the fetus due to caffeine consumption a few studies do suggest that it affects birthweight.
Smoking : Habit in the pregnant mother, affects the growing fetus in many ways. It restricts blood supply and limits oxygen & nutrients to the growing fetus. It may lead to growth retardation, vaginal bleeding, abortion, and low birthweight. Sometimes the effects of smoking may harm the intellectual development of the child, which can be seen much later in the life. And above all smokers tend to eat less than non-smokers, which in turn affects fetal nutrition.
Vitamins : Most women tend to overdose on vitamins, mistakenly assuming that if little is good, more is much better. Most fat soluble vitamins are stored in the body and high levels of these may prove toxic e.g. Vitamin A, Vitamin D, & Vitamin E. You must consult your physician before taking vitamin mineral supplements during pregnancy.
Incorrect eating habits : In India women use pregnancy as a license to ‘indulge’ and ‘binge’ on junk foods. It is common practice to eat large quantities of sour and spicy junk foods like bhel, panipuri, sevpuri, pavbhaji, pastries and chocolates, high fat milk and ghee in almost everything. They splurge on chat-patta foods without guilt, and put on unnecessary weight. Such foods do not nourish the mother or the fetus and they end up being over-fed and undernourished. Malnutrition interferes with the development of the fetus. The nutrition habits and lifestyle choices people make can influence the course of a pregnancy. Its consequences could affect fetal growth, birth weight; it could result in premature birth, abortion, and congenital malnutrition’s. Adequate weight gain and correct nutrition supports the health of the mother and the growing fetus.
ANJALI MUKERJEE, Nutritionist, Founder Director-Health Total, having health centers
in Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Pune -manages obesity & other health related disorders.
Contact numbers: 1800 8918131/+91 86575 61727
For further information, Visit www.health-total.com