Can you boost your baby’s brain development when you’re still pregnant? Yes, the experts tell Young Parents. Learn how you can give your unborn baby the best start in life.
As little as 20 minutes of moderate exercise daily – think brisk walking, yoga or swimming – during pregnancy can boost your unborn baby’s brain development, according to a 2013 study by researchers at the University of Montreal.
Better still, regular exercise helps your psychological health, and it lowers anxiety and fatigue during pregnancy as well, says Dr Seng Shay Way, a specialist in obstetrics and gynaecology, and a consultant at Raffles Fertility and Women’s Centre.
If you’ve always been active, continue with your usual workouts like yoga, dancing and walking.
But steer clear of contact sports (such as judo and kickboxing) and exercises with a risk of falling (like cycling and mountain climbing), he advises. When in doubt, check with your doctor.
Get some sunshine
While too much sun exposure can be harmful to the skin, the lack of vitamin D from sunlight during pregnancy can affect Baby’s brain and motor development, says a 2012 Spanish study published in the journal, Pediatrics.
The researchers found that babies of mums with a vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy had lower IQ and motor skills, than those whose mums had enough sunshine vitamin.
The Health Promotion Board recommends that pregnant mums get 10mcg of vitamin D daily.
Get some sunshine on your arms and legs twice a week, anytime between 10am and 3pm, for up to 30 minutes each time. Be sure to slather on sunscreen, too.
Vitamin D is also found in food such as eggs, salmon, milk and cereal.
(Also read: Healthier hawker dishes for pregnant mums)
Find support to manage stress
Managing stress and finding support are especially important during pregnancy, because how you feel can affect Baby’s growth and development.
When you’re distressed, you release stress hormones that can pass through the placenta. These excess hormones may trigger preterm labour and slow down your foetus’ growth, says Dr Tan Hwee Sim, a specialist in psychiatry and consultant at Raffles Counselling Centre.
Studies show that depression and anxiety during pregnancy can have a negative effect on Baby, who may be less active, more irritable and easily agitated after birth, she adds.
Shine a torchlight on your belly
Although he is cocooned in darkness, your unborn child can still make out changes in brightness occurring outside the womb. Hone his budding visual skills by shining a torchlight on your belly about 15cm away, says Wong Boh Boi, a parentcraft expert in private practice.
Hold your torchlight still and keep this activity brief, preferably under a minute, she adds. Ask Baby: “Can you see your fingers?”
Load up on good fats
Here’s a good reason to load up on healthy omega-3 fats in your prenatal diet: Your kid is likely to do better on tests measuring verbal, social and communication skills after birth, says Dr Tan Wei Ching, senior consultant at the department of obstetrics and gynaecology at Singapore General Hospital.
Just one to two servings of fish per week provides enough DHA (a type of omega-3 fatty acid) for your unborn baby’s brain development, she adds.
But stick to low-mercury varieties like canned tuna and salmon. Nuts and seeds also contain this healthy fat, as well the brain-boosting vitamin B6.