What you do and eat during pregnancy affects your unborn child’s development. Here are some tips on what to do during your pregnancy:
As little as 20 minutes of moderate exercise - think brisk walking, yoga or swimming - during pregnancy can boost your unborn baby's brain development, according to a 2013 study by the University of Montreal in Canada.
Regular exercise helps your psychological health and lowers anxiety and fatigue during pregnancy, said Dr Seng Shay Way, a specialist in obstetrics and gynaecology and a consultant at Raffles Fertility and Women's Centre.
But steer clear of contact sports, such as judo and kickboxing, and exercises with a risk of falling, such as cycling and mountain climbing, he added.
LOAD UP ON GOOD FATS
Here is a good reason to load up on healthy omega-3 fatty acids in your prenatal diet: Your kid is likely to do better on tests measuring verbal, social and communication skills after birth, said Dr Tan Wei Ching, a senior consultant at the department of obstetrics and gynaecology at Singapore General Hospital (SGH).
Just one or two servings of fish a week provides enough DHA, a type of omega-3 fatty acid, for your unborn baby's brain development, she added. But stick to low-mercury varieties such as canned tuna and salmon. Nuts and seeds also contain this healthy fat.
GET SOME SUNSHINE
While too much exposure to sun can harm the skin, a lack of vitamin D due to insufficient exposure to sunlight during pregnancy can affect your baby's brain and motor development, reported a 2012 Spanish study.
Researchers found that babies of mothers with a vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy had lower IQ and motor skills, compared with those whose mums had enough vitamin D. The Health Promotion Board recommends that pregnant mums get 10mcg of vitamin D daily.
Get some sunshine between 10am and 3pm, for up to 30 minutes each time, but be sure to slather on sunscreen. Vitamin D is also found in eggs, salmon and milk.
When a pregnant woman is distressed, she releases stress hormones that can pass through the placenta. These excess hormones may trigger preterm labour and slow down your foetus' growth, said Dr Tan Hwee Sim, a specialist in psychiatry and a consultant at Raffles Counselling Centre.
Studies show that depression and anxiety during pregnancy can have a negative effect on the child, who may be less active, more irritable and easily agitated after birth, she added.
LIGHT UP BABY'S WORLD
Although your unborn child is cocooned in darkness, he can make out changes in brightness occurring outside the womb.
Hone his budding visual skills by shining a torchlight on your belly about 15cm away, said Ms Wong Boh Boi, assistant director (clinical services) of Thomson Parentcraft Centre at Thomson Medical Centre.
Hold your torchlight still and keep this activity brief, preferably under a minute, she added.
INVOLVE DAD AND OLDER KIDS
The rest of the family can be part of the (one-sided) conversation too. Many studies have shown that babies can recognise their loved ones' voices before birth.
In a 2013 study published in the Proceedings Of The National Academy of Sciences, researchers got a group of pregnant mums to play a recording, which included a made-up word "tatata" repeated in different ways and pitches.
After birth, babies who heard the word responded to it, as shown on brain scans, while babies who did not listen to the recording did not.
TRY ROLLING OVER
Do this when you are eight months pregnant. You may feel some "quickening", caused by your unborn baby's limbs moving, when you suddenly roll over or stand up, said Dr John Medina in his book, Brain Rules For Baby: How To Raise A Smart And Happy Child From Zero To Five.
Called the Moro Reflex, this shows that your little one's movement and balance abilities are already working.
TALK AND READ TO BABY
By week 18, your unborn baby will be able to hear, said Thomson Parentcraft Centre's Ms Wong. So, talk or read nursery rhymes daily to stimulate his hearing. Keep it short, preferably no longer than five minutes.