“Eating for two”— that’s a lie

Keep weight gain in check to avoid complications, advise doctors.


On a regular day during her pregnancy six years ago, Kerine Tham had cheesecake for breakfast, several servings of hawker treats for lunch and dinner, as well as ice cream and durian in between meals.

“I was constantly hungry and thought I had to eat twice as much to grow a baby,” said the 27-year-old owner of a food-and-beverage business. 

Just before she gave birth, Tham, who is 1.61m tall, tipped the scales at 90kg. She had put on 33kg, which was three times the weight her doctor had advised her to gain during her pregnancy.
Six months after giving birth to her 3.5kg baby, Tham was dismayed to find that she was still 20kg away from her pre-pregnancy weight.

How much more to eat?
Gaining weight is essential for a healthy pregnancy because an unborn baby is completely dependent on the mother for nutrients, said Dr Ting Hua Sieng, specialist in obstetrics and gynaecology at The Obstetrics and Gynaecology Centre, a Singapore Medical Group (SMG) clinic.

However, doctors said many local mothers tend to have the mistaken notion that they should “eat for two”. Dr Ting estimated that at least half of the pregnant mothers she saw had difficulty keeping their weight under control. 

There is no need for women to increase their calorie intake during their first trimester, said Dr Ting.

Dr Kelly Loi, a fertility specialist at Mount Elizabeth Hospital, said an additional 300 calories a day — which translates to a small snack such as a cup of skimmed milk and one small sandwich or bun — is recommended during the second and third trimesters.

Said Dr Ting: “Family members may encourage the mother to take more high-calorie and rich food like tonic soups and meats. All these factors provide excuses for the mother to indulge,” said Dr Ting.

In addition, many Singaporean women continue to work long, stressful hours during their pregnancy. Their hectic lifestyles may result in poor dietary habits and a lack of exercise, which can cause excessive weight gain, said Dr Loi.

According to Dr Ting, women of normal pre-pregnancy weight are advised to put on an average of 11kg to 15kg during their entire pregnancy. Overweight women should gain 8kg to 12kg, while underweight women should aim for an additional 13kg to 18kg.