​From left: Professor Tan Kok Hian; Professor Alex Sia, CEO of KK Women's and Children's Hospital (KKH); Senior Minister of State for Health Amy Khor; Dr Chua Mei Chien; and Associate Professor Ng Kee Chong, chairman of the medical board at KKH, at the launch of a set of new guidelines on optimal perinatal nutrition yesterday. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

Increasing research proof shows need to optimise perinatal nutrition, says Amy Khor

Vanessa Liu, The Straits Times 

More than one in four women in Singapore are putting on too much weight during their pregnancies, a study has shown.

In the neonatal and obstetric risk assessment conducted between 2010 and 2014 by the Integrated Platform for Research in Advancing Metabolic Health Outcomes of Women and Children, 26.2 per cent of 704 pregnant women here had gestational weight gain above recommended guidelines. The guidelines differ for pregnant mothers of different body mass indexes.

"Many people feel that when a woman is pregnant, she should eat for two. But in fact, the additional calories that she needs to take a day are only about 300, which is 10 per cent to 15 per cent of her baseline calorie requirement," said Dr Chua Mei Chien, senior consultant and head of the neonatology department at KK Women's and Children's Hospital (KKH) yesterday.

Gaining excessive weight during pregnancy has been linked to a higher risk of macrosomic babies - those who are significantly larger than average. For Asian babies, this is above 4kg.
Macrosomic babies in turn are more likely to become obese by the time they reach kindergarten, according to a 2017 study by researchers from the University of Virginia School of Medicine.

Nurse Jaslin Teo, 29, gave birth to her first child four months ago. She said: "It was hard initially for me to watch my diet. But after some time it got better. I love eating honeyed cornflakes before I sleep, but after I noticed my weight had increased quite fast, I stopped eating it. I was worried that it would increase the risk of gestational diabetes."

High gestational weight gain, maternal obesity and excessive milk-feeding were some issues raised at the launch of a set of new guidelines on optimal perinatal nutrition at KKH. "Perinatal" refers to the first 1,000 days of life from conception to age two.

The guidelines build on those for gestational diabetes launched last year and were developed with reference to local research findings, as well as recommendations from key international publications.

Increasing evidence from international and local studies has emphasised the need to optimise perinatal nutrition, said Senior Minister of State for Health Amy Khor, guest of honour at the event. "New evidence also shows that adverse BMI (body mass index) trajectories in childhood can be successfully modified only through interventions made before six years of age," she added.