Monthly Archives

November 2020

How to Stay Healthy During Pregnancy

By PregnancyNo Comments

Pregnancy is the perfect time to re-evaluate your health and motivate yourself to be healthier, as there is a new life growing inside of you! But are you on the right track of keeping healthy?

Staying healthy during pregnancy prevents future birth complications such as low birth weight, birth abnormalities and so on. Here are a few tips on how to optimize your health, and ensure you have a healthy pregnancy and most importantly – a healthy baby!

Eating Right

As your baby bump grows, it’s crucial to get the proper nutrients for you and your baby to continue growing and maintaining a healthy weight. It’s recommended for pregnant women to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, lean meats, whole-grain bread and low-fat dairy products. Saturated fats and processed sugar should be kept to a minimum.

Vitamin Supplements

Eating a well-balanced diet should ensure you have all the necessary nutrients. However, during pregnancy, you will need more of these nutrients, especially folate (folic acid), iron and calcium.

Why is folic acid important for a healthy pregnancy? Research shows that the consumption of folic acid prior to and during the first three months of pregnancy decreases the risk of neural tube defects. The neural tube is the base that eventually forms your baby’s brain and spinal cord, and is formed during the first few weeks of pregnancy – possibly even before a woman knows she is pregnant. If the neural tube doesn’t form properly, it becomes a neural tube defect known as spina bifida.

An iron supplement may be prescribed by your doctor if you are anaemic during pregnancy. Pregnant women require more iron to make haemoglobin, the protein responsible for carrying oxygen in red blood cells. When iron is deficient, the body can’t produce enough red blood cells to carry oxygen to the rest of the organs and tissues to function properly. Naturally, this would also affect the development of your baby.

Iron can be found in various meat types and dark leafy vegetables. However, there is no need to consume iron supplement if you are keeping a healthy diet.

A growing baby will require more calcium, especially in the third trimester, when your baby is swiftly developing their skeletal system. If there is insufficient calcium, your body may start leeching calcium from your own bones to cater to your baby’s growing demands. But the good news is, your body will also produce more vitamin D at this point, in order to absorb more calcium from your diet. To be safe, you should aim to increase your calcium intake by consuming more yoghurt and low-fat milk.

Regular Prenatal Care

Proper prenatal care is key to a smooth pregnancy. Prenatal visits are usually scheduled as below:

  • Once a month until 28th week of pregnancy
  • Every 2 weeks until 36th week of pregnancy
  • Every week until childbirth

At your first visit, your doctor will do a physical examination and pregnancy test to see how far along the baby is, based on your last menstrual cycle. Based on this information, your doctor can give a rough estimation of your delivery date.

For subsequent visits, your doctor will monitor your weight, blood pressure and progress of your baby. Blood test, urine test, cervical tests and ultrasounds will be a routine part of your prenatal care visits.

Stay Hydrated

Pregnant women need more water as there is a sharp increase in blood volume during pregnancy. More water is also needed to carry nutrients from your body to your baby and to maintain sufficient levels of amniotic fluid. Drinking at least eight glasses of water a day helps prevent common pregnancy discomforts such as constipation, swelling and dehydration.

Avoid Cheese and Raw Food

Foodborne diseases pose a danger for unborn babies and may result in miscarriages or birth abnormalities. It’s best to avoid unpasteurised cheese such as feta, Brie, Camembert, blue cheese and goat cheese. Raw food is also a no-go, so stay away temporarily from raw meats such as sushi, or food with raw eggs ingredients such as tiramisu, mousse, raw cookie dough etc.

Avoid Caffeine, Alcohol and Smoking

There is no fixed consensus on the tolerable amount of alcohol that you can consume during pregnancy. However, alcohol is easily passed from mother to a growing baby, who is less equipped to process alcohol. Alcohol tends to stay in the baby’s system longer, leading to mental and physical birth defects. Even moderate alcohol drinking may result in permanent damage to the baby’s nervous system.
Smoking passes on nicotine and carbon monoxide to the baby, and the risks include premature birth, low birth weight, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), asthma and other respiratory problems in the long run.

High levels of caffeine may increase the chances of miscarriage or low birth weight, hence it’s best to restrict your caffeine intake. Don’t forget that caffeine is not limited to coffee – certain types of teas and soft drinks may also contain caffeine, albeit in lesser quantities.


Moderate physical activity is absolutely safe for most pregnant mothers, and in fact even encouraged as it prepares the body for labour, prevent excessive weight gain, and reduces the recovery time after delivery.

An important thing to remember is your body produces the hormone relaxin, which loosens the muscle ligaments in preparation for childbirth. In this case, your body may be easily overstretched and prone to injury. High intensity and acrobatic exercises such as gymnastics and skiing should be avoided for the time being. Walking, jogging, swimming are examples of low impact activities that are safe for pregnant mothers to get a good workout.

While taking good care of your health during pregnancy does require discipline, most women have reported never feeling healthier than they did while expecting. At the end of the day, pregnancy is a journey that’s different for every woman, so don’t forget to pause and listen to your body!

How Breastfeeding Benefits Mothers

By BreastfeedingNo Comments

Just like how breast milk is designed to nourish your baby and boost their immune system, growing evidence points to long term health benefits for mothers as well that many are unaware of.

Making the decision to breastfeed is a personal choice for every mother. Breast milk is great for your baby as it contains all the nutrients required for your baby to grow healthily, but many mums may be surprised to hear breastfeeding is a crucial way for your body to recover from childbirth as well. In fact, the longer a mother nurses her baby, the more beneficial it is for both of them.

Fast Postpartum Recovery

One of the much-touted benefits of breastfeeding is a faster postpartum recovery after childbirth. Typically new mothers will experience mild cramping as the uterus slowly contracts back to its original size. The recovery process usually takes a couple of months. However, breastfeeding releases the hormone oxytocin that stimulates the uterus to contract naturally for a much quicker recovery.

New mothers will also experience postpartum bleeding. The vaginal discharge is called lochia. Lochia is made up of blood, mucus and uterine tissue lining that used to cushion your baby in the womb. It is typically heavier than your normal menstrual period. As oxytocin also promotes womb healing, breastfeeding mothers generally have a shorter bleeding period and heal faster.

Emotional Health and Well-Being

Mothers form a strong bond with her baby during breastfeeding due to the hormones released. Oxytocin and prolactin are the happy hormones that relax the mother and make her feel more nurturing towards her baby. A study conducted on mothers who just gave birth found that they were 50% less likely to sink into postnatal depression if they breastfeed their babies.

On the health front, nursing mothers appear to have reduced the risk of cancers, cardiovascular diseases and other serious health disorders.

Type 2 Diabetes

Getting pregnant lowers your body’s glucose tolerance and increases insulin resistance. This is why it is much easier for pregnant women to develop gestational diabetes (where your blood sugar rises during pregnancy), which could cause complications during childbirth and post-delivery as well.

Studies have shown a mother’s risk of developing diabetes dwindles and in some cases, even disappears completely when she breastfeeds. In a study of pregnant women with gestational diabetes, breastfeeding women had a better glucose tolerance and healthier beta cell functions (cells that produce insulin) than women who did not breastfeed.

Heart Diseases

A study on postmenopausal women found that women who breastfeed were healthier and had superior cardiovascular health than women who did not breastfeed. One possible explanation may be linked to cholesterol levels, which increases during pregnancy. Nursing mothers were found to have a higher high-density lipoprotein (HDL), also known as the “good cholesterol”. On the other hand, triglycerides levels took longer to revert back to pre-pregnancy levels for non-nursing mothers.

Breast and Ovarian Cancer

Breast cancer is the leading cancer among women in Singapore, while ovarian cancer is slightly behind in the fifth place.

For every year that a woman nurses her baby, she is 4.3% less likely to develop breast cancer. This trend is also found in women who have a family history of breast cancer. Nursing inhibits ovulation, this results in fewer menstrual cycles as well as lowered estrogen levels. As estrogen is the hormone that promotes cell growth, this is thought to be the contributing factor to for the lowered risk of breast cancer, and risk of cancer cells recurring if a woman was diagnosed previously.

For ovarian cancer, nursing mothers had 24% less risk than non-nursing mothers, and women with longer nursing period had a further reduction in the risk.

Weight Loss

Did you know producing milk for a baby burns 480 calories a day? Fat accumulated during pregnancy is used to produce milk, thus women who breastfeed tend to bounce back to their pre-pregnancy body weight much faster. In the long run, by breastfeeding and burning off the extra fats, this actually lowers the mother’s risk for gaining weight and becoming obese as well.


Practical Advantages of Breastfeeding

Practically speaking, breast milk is definitely much cheaper than baby milk formulas! It is also much more convenient to breastfeed your baby than to get up and prepare a bottle of formula, especially at erratic times throughout the day.

Many mums may not feel the benefits of breastfeeding immediately amidst the stress, fatigue, lack of sleep, sore nipples from feeding and so on, but at the end of the day, it’s all worth the effort –both for you and your baby!

To Exercise or Not During Pregnancy

By PregnancyNo Comments

Should I workout during my pregnancy? If you’re an expecting mum and wondering if exercise is safe for you and your baby, here are the experts take on the matter.

Exercise is great for you and your baby. Most doctors not only allow but encourage pregnant women to exercise regularly. Studies have shown pregnant mothers who exercise give birth to stronger babies with a lowered risk of cardiovascular problems in life, as they have stronger blood vessels.

Benefits of Exercising During Pregnancy

Prenatal exercise offers a ton of health benefits. Regular exercise relieves stress, alleviates pregnancy discomfort like back pain and lowers your risk of pregnancy complications. Maintaining a workout routine during pregnancy also prevents gestational diabetes – a condition where your blood sugar levels become high during pregnancy. After childbirth, you may also find yourself bouncing back to your pre-pregnancy body much faster!

What Kind of Exercises Should I Do?

There are loads of exercises that are suitable for expecting mums, as long as it’s done in moderation.
Experts recommend a low to moderate intensity workout for 30 minutes a day, 5 times a week. If you feel you can’t commit to 30 minutes daily, you can break it down into mini-workouts throughout the day as well. In fact, you might be pleased to know that doing housework is counted as physical exercise as well!


Brisk walking is the safest activity for pregnant mothers, as it doesn’t strain your muscles too much. It’s a great activity to keep the heart rate up with if you are new to exercising.


Water buoyancy helps to support your growing baby weight and is easy on the joints and muscles. It is also a great total body workout.

Stationary cycling

Your growing baby weight and body changes will shift your centre of gravity, making you lose your balance more easily. Cycling indoors on a stationary bike is much safer for pregnant women than riding a normal bike, as you are less likely to lose your balance and fall off.

Weight training

Pregnant mothers should adopt a strength training program that strengthens the muscles and build stamina. Strong muscles are needed to support your changing body through pregnancy and in preparation for labour and childbirth.


Jogging and running are great aerobic workouts to keep you fit and healthy. It is a low impact activity, hence it does not harm the baby. If you used to run regularly before, it should be fine to continue running throughout your pregnancy. Just remember to reduce the intensity, mileage and stick to the easier running routes.


Exercises To Avoid During Pregnancy

Although most physical activities are deemed safe for pregnant mothers, there are some activities that you should avoid while you are expecting.

High-risk sports

Sports that comes with a falling risk or injury should be off-limits. Examples include skiing, snowboarding, gymnastics etc.

Altitude change sports

Your body will require more oxygen as your baby grows, hence it’s a good idea to avoid sports that involve extreme altitude change such as skydiving and scuba diving, as these activities pose a risk of decompression sickness for you and your baby.

Hot Yoga and Saunas

Exercises or physical environments that elevate your body into high temperatures should be avoided, as it diverts blood away from the uterus to your skin to cool off the heat. Certain yoga programs such as hot yoga are unsuitable for pregnant mothers. Saunas, steam rooms, hot soaks are a big no-no as well.

Excessive stretching, jumping or bouncing

Your muscle ligaments will be much looser due to hormones produced during pregnancy, hence it is highly like you might accidentally pull a muscle during your workouts. Avoid sports that consist of rapid, jerking movements such as basketball and netball. Be cautious of pushing your body too hard, and if you feel pain, stop.

Prolonged standing or lying flat on your back

Both these movements constrict major blood vessels and restrict blood flow, which may be harmful to you and your baby.

When Should I Stop Exercising?

If you have specific health conditions and your doctor has advised you to stop exercising, then it’s best to lay off the workouts for the moment. If exercise wasn’t your regular jam in the past, no sweat! Just take it easy and aim to exercise at least 30 minutes a day and build it up from there.

Pro tip: listen to your body. Expectant mums get tired more easily and while breathing hard is perfectly normal during workouts, but overstraining your body is not! Overexerting yourself at this point may severely dehydrate your body and cause poor supply of oxygen to your baby, leading to complications such as preterm labour.

Needless to say, if you experience chronic muscle pain, it would be wise to throw in the towel and call it a day. Pregnancy is a great time to work on your fitness level, however, it is not the time to train for a new, gruelling activity. Avoid exercising to the point of exhaustion.

As a general rule, you don’t need to belong to a gym to be physically active. Any of these physical activities can be done in the comforts of your own home, or you can take a more active role in your everyday life, such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator. If in doubt, check with your doctor before starting a new physical activity.