A Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the Lagos State University College of Medicine, Prof. Adetokunbo Fabamwo, has said that pregnant women can avoid constipation in pregnancy by consuming a lot of fruits and vegetables.
Prof. Fabamwo who is the Chief Medical Director of the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, Ikeja, maintains the consumption of fruits and vegetables aids bowel movement.
The maternal health expert disclosed this during an exclusive interview with PUNCH HealthWise, stressing that eating healthy diets during pregnancy reduces the risk of cardiovascular complications.
The gynaecologist urged expectant mothers to embrace the consumption of fruits and vegetables, noting that pregnancy tends to slow down bowel movement.
Prof. Fabamwo explained, “There are classes of food that are beneficial to pregnant women that we encourage them to ingest when they are pregnant.
“We encourage pregnant women to take a lot of fruits and vegetables for gastrointestinal activity, adding that pregnancy tends to promote constipation.
“The movement of the bowels tends to slow down in pregnancy. Also, the pressure of the uterus on the bowels tends to make pregnant women constipated.
“So, we encourage them to take a lot of fruits to be able to move their bowels freely.”
According to the American Pregnancy Association, constipation during pregnancy is a common problem and nearly half of all pregnant women get constipated at some point.
Constipation, the association said occurred when there is abdominal pain or discomfort, difficult and infrequent bowel movements, and the passage of hard stools.
“Constipation during pregnancy is due to the increase in progesterone hormones that relax the intestinal muscle causing food and waste to move slower through your system.
“Sometimes iron tablets may contribute to constipation. Make sure you are drinking plenty of water if you are taking iron supplements,” it added.
Prof. Fabamwo noted that pregnant women were free to eat any food of their choice but must not be in excess.
“They are free to eat any type of food they want to eat. They can eat swallow, rice, whatever they want to eat but not in excessively large quantities because also, we do not want pregnant women to put on excessive weight.
“After all, the pregnancy itself is going to make them grow bigger. They are going to add 12.5kg during the whole of the pregnancy already.
“The total weight gain in pregnancy is an average of 12.5kg. So, they don’t need to eat excessively to add more to that 12.5kg so that they don’t have cardiovascular complications.
“Now, also we know that pregnant women may not be able to tolerate three square meals. So, we also advocate that they take five meals spread throughout the day,” he said.
On pregnant women skipping meals to have small babies and vaginal delivery, the professor stated that the weight of a baby was determined by a lot of factors and not by the food intake of the mother.
The don said, “The baby’s weight has little or nothing to do with what the mother eats. A baby’s weight is genetically determined right from conception.
“A baby’s weight is a combination of factors, father’s height, mother’s height, family traits, and so on.
“Whether the woman eats or not, the baby will extract its pound of flesh from her. So, it is the woman that will suffer it and not the baby. The baby will still grow. The baby has a way of getting all the nutrients it needs even from the mother’s reserve.”
The gynaecologist cautioned mothers against starving themselves during pregnancy, noting that it is dangerous.
He urged expectant mothers not to joke with their diets and to eat healthily at all times.
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, eating well is one of the best things one can do during pregnancy.
“Good nutrition helps you handle the extra demands on your body as your pregnancy progresses. The goal is to balance getting enough nutrients to support the growth of your foetus and maintaining a healthy weight,” ACOG said.
In a 2014 article published by PubMed Central Journal titled, ‘Associations of consumption of fruits and vegetables during pregnancy with infant birth weight or small for gestational age births: a systematic review of the literature’, the authors said maternal nutrition is recognised as one of the determinants of foetal growth.
The authors said consumption of fruits and vegetables led to better pregnancy outcomes.
“Consumption of fruits and vegetables is promoted as part of a nutrient-dense diet and for chronic disease prevention; however, in both highly developed and developing countries intakes are typically lower than recommended levels, including intakes among pregnant women.
“Findings from observational studies suggest that overall diet quality during pregnancy, or patterns of dietary intake consistent with a nutrient-dense diet, are positively associated with birth outcomes, including increased birth weight and reduced risk for infants delivered small for gestational age,” the authors said.