Once you’re pregnant, your lifestyle choices as well as your diet matter more than ever before. Alcohol and caffeine consumption as well as smoking are big no-nos during pregnancy. Here’s why.
WORDS EIMEAR ELKINGTON
Apart from genetic factors that cannot be altered, negative effects to an unborn baby’s health will rely mainly on what the mother is exposed to during pregnancy, explains Dr Tan Eng Loy, consultant, Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Singapore General Hospital.
We sometimes forget that alcohol and tobacco are also dangerous drugs, especially when they’re taken in excess or over a long period of time. Pregnant women are particularly at risk as their baby suffers the negative effects of any alcohol consumption or even passive smoking in the womb.
Put a Stop to Smoking
As well as the negative effects for mum, smoking during pregnancy increases the risk of complications, miscarriage and stillbirth. Cigarettes have over 4,000 chemicals, emphasises Dr Shamini Nair, consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist, Raffles Hospital. The nicotine and carbon monoxide in cigarettes reduce the oxygen supply to the foetus. Your baby’s small lungs are constantly developing in the womb and babies who inhale cigarette smoke are more likely to be delivered prematurely, risk being born with a low birth weight, and have an increased risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) during their first year of life. If you or your partner are smokers, talk to you doctor about quitting techniques before you even start trying for a baby. Once you’re pregnant try to steer clear of smoky areas, and avoid passive smoking around friends who light up.
In terms of alcohol, we know a couple of drinks can be fun on the weekend, but drinking while you’re pregnant can have serious consequences for bub. Women who drink heavily while pregnant risk their babies being born with abnormalities and developmental delays as a result of foetal alcohol spectrum disorder. While some doctors say one or two drinks per week for pregnant women is fine, opinions on the issue are mixed and there isn’t enough research to fully measure the effect of alcohol on babies in the womb. Many women feel it’s better to be safe than sorry, and abstain from alcohol completely while they’re pregnant and breastfeeding. If you’re out with friends try ordering an iced tea instead, or attempt experimenting with fruity mocktails at home.
Go Easy on the Caffeine
The other beverage additive to be careful with while you’re pregnant is caffeine – found in some of our favourite drinks like coffee, Coke Light and tea. While caffeine consumption is much less serious than alcohol, large amounts of caffeine during pregnancy can result in low birth weight for babies. Try to keep your caffeine consumption below 200mg per day – which is about the amount found in one café-style latte, two instant coffees or four cups of tea or cola.