Obtaining the right nutrients is key during pregnancy and after delivery

After delivery, the midwife asked the Chinese mother if she wanted to keep the baby’s placenta. The reason? Some Chinese mothers take the placenta home to eat during their “confinement”.

Traditional Asian diets may not be adequate or healthy for foetus development

While this practice – documented in Cultural Journeys, a book by SingHealth nurses – is among the more unusual, it is common for Asians to “confine” new mothers after a strength-sapping delivery. They stay home for as long as a month and are given tonics and other special foods believed to boost their recovery and increase lactation.

Both Malay and Chinese mothers take plenty of herbal concoctions during their confinement. Chicken features strongly in Asian cultures because it is believed to be especially nutritious. The Burmese eat roast chicken or chicken broth. Non-vegetarian Hindus and Indians also favour chicken, considering it a “hot” food good for recovery. They believe roasted garlic increases milk production.

Mothers-to-be are inundated with advice on what t​o eat and what to avoid. Pregnant Hindus cut down on milk and high-protein food to avoid an overly large baby ​​and a difficult birth. Filipinos abstain from coffee and other “black” foods to have fair-skinned babies.

"But," said Madam Koay Saw Lan, Senior ​Manager, Food Services, Singapore General Hospital (SGH), a member of the SingHea​​​lth​ group, “Skin colour is genetic. No food can change the gen​etic make-up of the child.”

While such practices are rooted in t​he knowledge that good nutrition is important during and after pregnancy, traditional diets may be inadequate or even harmful. Indeed, said Mdm Koay, many pregnant mothers are found to be lacking in calcium, folic acid, iron and zinc – important nutrients for the healthy development of the foetus.

See next page for information on​ ​why​ quality beats ​quantity when it comes to pregnancy nutrition​.

​Ref: V10