For most women, the surest way to have a healthy baby is to practice a healthy lifestyle. And based on variables such as age, sex, income, education, and ethnicity as important determinants in a population health study, it looks like Canadian women are following the right guidelines — and by extension, delivering healthy babies.
But a new study in journal Paediatric and Perinatal Epidemiology by Dr. Joel Ray, a researcher and physician at St. Michael’s Hospital, highlights some interesting facts about babies born in Ontario — specifically, that newborns born to immigrant women are bigger than those born in their mothers’ native countries, but smaller than those of Canadian-born mothers.
“Nearly all infants born to women in their native country have lower birth weights than those born to mothers who had emigrated to Canada,” Dr. Ray said in the hospital’s press release.
Baby boys weighed, on average, 115 grams more, and baby girls were 112 grams more, he added. Dr. Ray’s paper was based on the published birth weight curves recorded between 1980 and 2012 in 21 countries.
Tracking infant birth weight can help predict future outcomes for children. According to the International Journal of Epidemiology, birthweight is "used to explain variations in infant mortality and later morbidity."
Although not certain, Dr. Ray suggested these results could merely be the law of averages, since it's more likely that those who manage to migrate to Canada are leaving a higher monetary bracket and were of a higher social background in their home country.
Still, genetic predispositions, habits and adjusting to a new lifestyle (not walking as much, driving more, eating new and different foods, etc.) does influence the new immigrants' health choices, but does not necessarily make the individual any less or more healthy.
So although the infant may get additional attention from the attending staff when it is smaller, generally speaking a newborn who is lighter or heavier than average is most likely fine. But it is prudent to have a checklist which includes ethnic-specific weight charts. Misdiagnosing babies causes anxiety for the parents, and if nothing else, puts pressure on an already stretched nursing community.
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Superfoods For Pregnancy
<strong>Benefit To Baby:</strong> Healthy Growth Protein is needed to build and repair cells, and is essential to a baby's development and growth. Red meat and dairy are rich in protein, but they're also high in saturated fats. Balance your diet with fish protein (in all fish products), which also contains essential fatty acids. And don't forget vegetable protein, which includes brown rice, quinoa, chickpeas, lentils, baked beans, pumpkin seeds and cashew nuts. A great alternative protein source, tofu is low in fat and will help balance those blood sugar levels. Add to juice from pomegranate and mixed berries for a sweet drink that also packs a powerful antioxidant punch.
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Yoghurt And Honey
<strong>Benefit To Mother And Baby:</strong> Increases Energy Levels And Bone Building High in calcium (important during pregnancy for building your baby's bones) with a sweet kick from the honey, this treat should tide you over without making you sleepy. Dairy foods provide vitamins A and D, which are essential for bone-building and bone maintenance for you and your baby. They are also a good source of protein.
<strong>Benefit to Mother:</strong> Eases Heartburn And Water Retention Dried figs are laden with digestive enzymes, which should help you to digest your food and ease those heartburn symptoms. They're also rich in the essential mineral potassium, which helps to maintain the body's fluid balance during pregnancy, which is essential to battling swollen legs, hands and ankles.
<strong>Benefit To Baby:</strong> Maintains Healthy Nervous System Omega-3 fatty acids are vital for your baby's brain and nervous system, as well as your own mental health. Foods rich in omega-3 include oily fish like fresh tuna, mackerel and sardines, although restrict your intake to twice a week, as too much fish can increase risk of pollutants. Fatty acids help brain development and work to improve its function, so as well as being nutritious, slow-releasing energy snacks, like sesame seeds, which help keep you mentally alert and working well throughout the day.
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<strong>Benefit To Baby:</strong> Strengthens Bones Sweet potatoes offer a rich source of folic acid, which helps prevent neural tube defects in foetuses. It also protects your unborn baby from spinal cord problems, such as spina bifida. lentils are also a great for increasing your folic acid intake, as one cup provides 358mcg of folic acid, almost the daily requirement of 400mcg. Fruits like strawberries are a great way to get your folic acid, and even tastier if you dip them in chocolate! Scientists in Finland found that eating chocolate when pregnant resulted in happier, livelier babies, but keep your waistline in mind and be conservative when dipping.
Almonds And Apricots
<strong>Benefit To Mother:</strong> Curbs Food Cravings A handful of almonds and apricots will provide you with a sweet kick that's high in protein - this will help to curb cravings as well as keeping you feeling fuller for longer.
<strong>Benefit To Mother:</strong> Protects From Pre-eclampsia Parsnips are a good source of fibre and folate (the natural form of folic acid), as well as providing potassium (associated with a lowering in blood pressure) which is vital for protecting against pre-eclampsia, a condition caused by high blood pressure.
According to Statistics Canada, the year 2006 reported about 3 million immigrant women living in Canada, accounting for 20 per cent of the total female population. This mirrors the number of total immigrants, and if the trend continues, Canada could have about 11.1 million immigrants by 2031.
Dr. Ray also notes that there were exceptions in the weight results – Swedish and Israeli boys and girls were actually bigger when born in their native countries. And babies of immigrant mothers from East and South Asia are still smaller than babies born to mothers who were themselves born in Canada.
This may be explained by high levels of healthcare and social services in Sweden, and the small number of babies born to Swedish immigrants in Ontario. For Israelis, the explanation may be the higher rate of obesity among women of child-bearing age, or the possibility that Israelis don't systematically gain weight after arriving in Canada as some other immigrant groups do.
Dr. Ray said the newborns' weight differences highlight the need for newborn weight curves designed specifically for immigrants. Neither those designed for Canadian-born women nor women in their native countries accurately reflect the birth weights of children born to most immigrant groups.
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