On hot summer days, one way to beat the heat in Taiwan is to sip on a cool beverage such as milk tea, grass jelly drinks, crushed mango ice or a mixed fruit juice drink. However, after several recent cases involving difficulties during childbirth, doctors have warned pregnant women not to overindulge on sweetened beverages and juice drinks.
Doctors said the high sugar and calorie content of popular summer beverages can result in excessive weight gain and an increased risk of diabetes and other afflictions.
Hsu Yao-jen (許耀仁), an obstetrician doctor at the Taipei Tzu Chi General Hospital, said that he had recently encountered a number of cases in which pregnant women ate very few meals in an attempt to stave off the heat and control their weight.
“In some cases, pregnant women replaced regular meals with fruit or fruit juices. They ate a lot of watermelon, pineapple and mango. Along with sugarcane juice, they consumed various fruit juices, milk teas and fruits with high fructose content,” he said.
“In addition, they often stayed indoors in air-conditioned rooms to stave off the heat. All these factors led to a sharp rise in their own body weight and that of the fetus,” Hsu said.
Doctors said that while most babies in Taiwan weigh about 3kg to 3,2kg at birth, ultrasound examinations showed that some expecting mothers, only two weeks away from their due date, were found to be carrying “giant babies,” meaning babies weighing 4kg or more.
Hsu said that most pregnant women in Taiwan have a medium to small-sized pelvis.
During a normal childbirth, a woman experiences contractions, which lead to dilation of the cervix, and go into labor with active contractions and dilation to allow passage of the fetus, he said, adding it usually takes one to two hours for the baby to be delivered.
“However, when a fetus is too large, labor often exceeds two hours. Sometimes doctors even need to induce birth through a Caesarian section or aid the delivery by using vacuum suctioning,” he added.
Hsu said that normal body weight gain during pregnancy is about 10kg to 14kg, and pregnant women should avoid gaining too much weight.
Chang Ya-lin (張亞琳), a nutritionist at the Taipei Tzu Chi General Hospital, said eating fresh fruit is better than drinking fruit juices.
“Pineapple, watermelon, orange and mango are fruits commonly used in juices. But people should be careful regarding the calorie content of these fruits,” she said. “An orange has about 60 calories. Five oranges may be used to make one glass of juice, providing 300 calories, which is more than one bowl of rice.”
She said pregnant women should not drink more than one or two glasses of fruit juice a week, and advised them to drink herbal tea without adding sugar, green tea or unsweetened lemonade.