All around the globe, moms-to-be and new moms get advice from family, friends and doctors on what to eat and drink. For women in Singapore, pregnancy traditionally reminds them of fish soup. In Vietnam, expectant mothers believe that eating goose eggs can make their babies smarter and in Japan, women are told that spicy food can give the baby a short temper.
Surprisingly, in spite of all that advice, according to Geoffry Smith, president of the International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI) Southeast Asia Region, “Many new and expectant moms may be overwhelmed by family and friends’ well-meaning but conflicting advice.” Smith says, “This may prevent them from eating a balanced diet and from getting essential nutrients.”
Why Nutrition is So Important
“We need to raise awareness about evidence-based maternal nutrition to help mothers make better nutritional choices,” says Smith. “There are many studies of maternal nutrition in Western countries but not many that provide a perspective on Asian moms and maternal nutrition.”
An Abbott study which was conducted in Vietnam examined the impact of a lactation support program consisting of breastfeeding education and maternal nutrition supplementation on birth outcomes and breast feeding by Vietnamese mothers. Two-thirds of expectant women in the study were deficient in many nutrients that are important for healthy pregnancies.
The study found that participants who took maternal milk supplements during their pregnancy delivered babies with healthier birth weight and head growth. At 12 weeks postpartum, nearly 100% of mothers in the intervention group had adequate intakes of calcium, zinc, vitamin E, vitamin C, and B-vitamins. Moms also had improved breastfeeding results.
“Moms who got the full range of nutrition needed during and after childbirth, as part of the breastfeeding support they received, were twice as likely to breastfeed exclusively for three months and beyond,” says Yen Ling Low, PhD, Director of Research & Development at Abbott’s Asia-Pacific nutrition center.
Whether it is the Eastern or Western culture, there are plenty of old wives’ tales and myths surrounding expectant moms’ diet. Here, our experts debunk some popular myths:
Slideshow: Test Your Knowledge
Fact: Focusing on a healthy, well balanced diet rather than eating for two will help optimize your child’s development while safeguarding moms’ health. Excessive weight gain can increase mom’s risk of gestational diabetes.
Fact: New mom shouldn’t diet at all. In fact, mothers’ bodies need extra nutrients after birth to produce milk. If you’re finding it difficult to get the right nutrients with food alone, consider adding a daily maternal milk supplements to your diet. According to the Abbott study, mothers who complemented a healthy diet with nutrient-rich, low-fat maternal milk supplements were found to better meet the nutrient recommendations for breastfeeding mothers, without any additional weight gain.
Fact: Not necessarily. Regardless of whether moms are following a vegetarian or a non-vegetarian diet, they need adequate amounts of protein, and other essential nutrients such as vitamins A, D, B6 and B12, folate, choline, calcium, iron, zinc, iodine and selenium through their diet or maternal milk supplements. The Abbott study found that consuming these nutrients were beneficial for moms’ and their newborns’ health.