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Foetus and pregnancy
Epigenetic Programming Phase
In the womb, the foetus undergoes tremendous growth, from a single cell to nearly 10 trillion cells. This is far greater than the growth a person undergoes from birth to adulthood. Life in the womb is a crucial epigenetic programming phase, during which a person's genetic expression will be largely determined.
The foetus takes food from its mother's blood, via the placenta. The foetus is totally influenced by the chemistry of the womb environment. It is therefore crucial that a pregnant woman eats foods that are rich and balanced in nutrients and free from toxic chemicals.
In particular, the development of the brain and nervous system is most crucial and brain foods need to emphasised in a pregnant woman's diet. These will be discussed in Book 2 Chapter 4 on Nourishing A Smart Brain.
Weight gain and pregnancy
Obviously, a woman needs to gain weight during pregnancy. But care has to be taken to avoid excessive weight gain. An obese mother will develop gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy). In turn, this will cause the infant to become larger than it should be and such an infant is programmed to develop insulin resistance, which increases the risk of developing obesity and diabetes later in life.
Acceptable overall weight gain range
Generally, it is acceptable for a normal weight woman (with a body mass index of 18.5 to 23) to gain about 13kg during pregnancy. Underweight women may gain slightly more, but those already overweight or obese should not gain more than about 10.5kg.
Weight gain during pregnancy should be evenly spread out as follows:
- First trimester (conception to week 14) between 1kg and 2kg;
- Subsequent approximately 200g to 250g per week.
For optimum health of both foetus and mother, a pregnant mother may benefit from taking food supplements such as multivitamins with minerals, fish oil and probiotics.
This content is adapted, with permission, from Book 1 of 2 : The Wonders of Nutrition by Dr Ang Poon Liat. MBBS, M.MED (PAED), MRCP (UK PAED), FAMS, MD.