EXPECTANT mothers of today are inundated with information on how they should go about their pregnancy, making it hard to separate truth from misconception.
According to Dr Fairuz Ashikin Abd Kadir, obstetrician and gynaecologist (maternal foetal medicine), traditional beliefs and taboos do have basis as they were generally observed for the good and safety of mother and child.
Some taboos concerning food consumption should be taken seriously, such as avoiding pineapple and unripe papaya as they increase the risk of miscarriage.
Pineapple is high in the enzyme bromelain that softens the cervix, while unripe papaya is high in papain which induces contractions. Ripe papaya is encouraged as it is high in vitamin E.
Other foods to avoid are raw produce (salmonella risks), fish with high mercury content, overnight leftovers, alcohol and caffeine (which causes heart palpitations). In addition, fresh milk and fruit juices must be properly pasteurised.
Many accept the notion that pregnant mothers are to eat for two. However, this is less about doubling the quantity consumed and more about the quality of nutrients the mother and baby are getting.
“Babies consume what the mother provides, whatever (nutrient deposits) the mother has. A mother has to eat well so that she will have enough nutrients for herself after the baby is born,” says Dr Fairuz. According to Dr Fairuz, a healthy diet for a pregnant woman should contain between 2,200 and 2,400 calories a day, be rich in proteins and low in fats and carbohydrates. Fruits and vegetables are not to be ignored.
The average weight gain of a healthy mother should range from 10kg to 15kg, while a heavier mother should not gain more than 6kg as it could be detrimental to the health of the mother and baby.
Dr Fairuz recommends physical exercise for all expectant mothers as it strengthens and increases the flexibility of the limbs for easier delivery. While riskier sports such as horse riding and rock climbing should be avoided to prevent accidents that may jeopardise the health of mother and child, a physically fit woman can continue to exercise during her pregnancy as it does not cause extra stress on her body and the baby. Women who lead sedentary lifestyles but wish to be active during their pregnancy are encouraged to start slow with low-stress exercises such as yoga, Pilates and walking.
There are symptoms that a pregnant woman should not ignore.
Firstly, a pregnant woman must seek immediate medical help if she encounters bleeding or any discharge from her nether region, as it could be sign of a miscarriage, infection or other complications.
Abdominal pain should also not be ignored. “During pregnancy, a mother may encounter abdominal pain that is not caused by contractions. This pain could be related to medical conditions such as appendicitis, liver problems or renal stones,” Dr Fairuz explains.
If a pregnant woman is experiencing headaches, blurred vision or massive weight gain, she could be experiencing hypertension, fits or stroke.
Fever should not be taken lightly. If a mother is diagnosed with dengue fever, emergency care must be given as it is much harder to treat a dengue patient who is pregnant.
A mother knows the movements of her baby best. If she notices that her baby is moving less in her womb, she should go for a check-up to ensure her child is safe.
Ensuring a safe delivery is just as important as maintaining a healthy pregnancy throughout.
A trend that is becoming increasingly popular among modern mothers is gentle birthing – a method that is meant to reduce the trauma or stresses of childbirth for the mother, baby and father.
Although the concept may seem empowering and idyllic, Dr Fairuz warns of its danger to mother and baby as medical staff and midwives in Malaysia are not adequately trained in this method.
She shares that the death risk for babies rises three-fold than those in proper medical health facilities and that gentle birthing causes a higher possibility of maternal death as mothers are not supervised by personnel with proper medical qualifications. Dr Fairuz emphasises the importance of consulting a certified medical doctor instead of relying on hearsay and online articles.
“A labouring mother should not see two sunsets, because it indicates that her labour is abnormal,” she says.