New Delhi: A new survey has revealed a high incidence of low birth weight babies in urban India. So, if you are an expecting mom, here`s how to guard against it - go for malted foods, don`t get stressed, make sure you exercise and cut out the cigarettes and alcohol completely.
The survey conducted by VLCC, a Delhi-based slimming and skin care service group, covered over 1,500 women from the high and middle income groups across Indian cities.
It said even in the urban Indian context, 24 percent adults are born with low birth weight (LBW) - less than 2.5 kg - compared to 14.7 percent born with normal weight.
"Lifestyle was found to be one of the major factors responsible for babies born with low birth weight," lead researcher Veena Aggarwal, head of R&D, technical and training at VLCC group, said.
The first trimester - or first three months - of pregnancy is difficult for would-be mothers as they often suffer vomiting, nausea and fatigue and tend to eat less. The baby thus gets less nutrition, said Aggarwal. Malted foods could offer the best nutrition.
"Malted food is the best option during the first trimester. Even if they eat less, it would help to give proper nutrition to the baby. Moreover, they are easily digestible," Aggarwal said.
Germinated ragi, sprouted wheat flour, germinated quinoa, germinated fenugreek seeds, barley, chick pea, germinated kidney beans and soya can be used in different recipes.
"Instead of having one full meal, five to six frequent small meals are enough for proper nutrition," said Dhiraj Bhatia, senior consultant in Escorts Heart Institute.
The second and, more so, the third trimester needs the mother to eat extra food to meet nutritional demands and so she has to slowly increase the intake of proteins which include milk, egg, fish or a combination of plant proteins like cereals and pulses.
According to Nagpur-based G. Shashikala, consultant development neurologist and general secretary Indian Academy of Cerebral Palsy (IACP), having a high glucose diet is also very important to maintain a balance.
"We have stopped having jaggery which is the best form of natural sugar. It is important for mothers-to-be to incorporate it into their diet," she said.
"Sometimes dental problems like plaque may also be responsible for low birth weight. The bacteria involved in plaque get dissolved in the fluid which carries the baby that can create problems," said Bhatia.
Stress is also an important reason behind babies being born with low birth weight, said Aggarwal.
"The size of the placenta often becomes small if the mother is stressed and nutrition doesn`t reach the baby properly. There is no better way to beat stress than exercise. Babies of mothers who exercise are born with healthier weights."
Manish Mannan, consultant on paediatrics and neonatology in Paras Hospitals, Gurgaon, also advises pregnant women to give up alcohol and smoking.
"Alcohol and smoking can also hinder the growth of the baby. Even passive smoking can affect the health of the baby as well as the mother. It is the responsibility of the family members not to smoke in front of expecting mothers," he said.