Avoiding coffee like the plague? Putting on gloves every time you go near the kitty litter? Letting your regrowth get unsightly because the hairdresser is off limits? When you’re pregnant, there’s a terrifying long list of ‘must not dos’ and decoding them can be a challenge. Truth is, most of us are in the dark.
A study from the University of Wollongong showed that a whopping 65 per cent of pregnant women don’t actually know the recommended dietary guidelines. When it comes to choosing healthy and safe foods for their baby’s development, they simply relying on hearsay. If you ask me, that’s pretty disconcerting. Here’s a closer look at the science behind the common theories – and which ones are just plain false.
Eat for two?
Is pregnancy a time to gain weight (healthily)? Yes. Is it a time to eat for two? No. Just because you’re providing nutrition to yourself and your baby, doesn’t mean you have free reign to double every meal. In fact, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) advises that a pregnant woman only needs about 300 extra calories to assist the development of her baby. The key is to focus on upping the nutritional value of your meals, not the portion size.
Stick to decaf
For a long time, pregnant women have been scared off caffeine for reasons such as causing miscarriage or preterm birth. However, the supporting science is weak at best. Let’s be honest – pregnancy is just plain tiring, and some of us need a caffeine pick-me-up every now and then. So, don’t deprive yourself. Instead, aim for no more than one cup a day. As coffee is a stimulant, it can cause dehydration, increased heart rate and increased blood pressure – none of which is good for bub.
Skip the gym
Okay, this one is just plain false. Prenatal exercise has a whole host of wonderful benefits – improving mood and energy, helping with sleep, increasing your fitness during labor and bounce-back after, assisting with circulation and decreasing your chances of developing gestational diabetes. The key is to be guided by your health professional on how to exercise safely from day one to delivery.
Say no to seafood
Seafood’s a bit of a tricky one. On one hand, it’s an amazing source of zinc, protein, omega-3 fatty acids and iron – all of which are extremely beneficial for your bub’s development. On the other hand, certain types of seafood (swordfish, king mackerel, shark and tilefish) contain high levels of mercury, which can affect your baby’s brain development and nervous system. So, don’t avoid the seafood buffet all together but be mindful of your choices.
Many people argue that one glass of wine won’t do any harm to the fetus. However, no amount of alcohol has been proven as safe – and it’s definitely not providing your bub any valuable nutrition. It’s also been linked with risks such as low birth weight, preterm birth and fetal alcohol syndrome. Beyond that, there’s a dangerous psychology around drinking. We’re only human, and a glass can quickly become half a bottle. So it’s a good idea to leave it at zero.
Eating nuts will give your baby nut allergies
Fact: The number of children with nut allergies is growing. Fiction: Pregnant women munching on peanuts is the cause. On the contrary, adhering to a restrictive diet – and cutting out things like nuts, eggs, fish and cow’s milk – has been shown to impact on a baby’s weight gain. Nuts are an excellent source of healthy fats and protein, so keep adding them to your stir-fry’s and salads.
You’ll lose weight fast when you breastfeed
There comes a point in most pregnancies where we embrace the weight gain – when else in life can we enjoy watching the kilos pile on?. We tell ourselves it’s fine, because it’ll all drop off when we start breastfeeding. Right? Not really.
For someone with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 18.5-24.9, the recommended weight gain is 11.5-16kg. If you get carried away and gain a lot more, you’ll most likely struggle to lose it after. And while breastfeeding can help to shift a couple of kilos, it’s not a miracle worker. For this reason, it’s best to always gain weight the healthy way.