Amazing Benefits of Edible Bird’s Nest During Pregnancy

Edible bird's nest drink, or bird's nest, contains nutrients essential for pregnant women. Some of its benefits are to support stronger pregnancies and healthier babies.

A spoon of red jujubes on the left and a bowl of bird’s nest on the right, set on a wooden table

For centuries, edible bird’s nest has become a medicinal superfood that you can find in many Chinese recipes. However, some people may not be so willing to taste this jelly-like delicacy because of what it’s made of — hardened swiftlet saliva.

Legend has it, edible bird’s nest has been around since the Tang Dynasty (618-907 A.D.), a Traditional Chinese Medicine delicacy only enjoyed by emperors. Now, you can enjoy the many health benefits of this “Caviar of the East.” What makes this delectable food even better is that it’s safe and nutritious for expecting mothers.

So, what are the benefits of taking an edible bird’s nest throughout your pregnancy for you and your unborn child? Read on to learn more.

The First Trimester: Your Baby’s First Mealtime

The first meal that humans consume is the amniotic fluid in our mother’s womb. As early as the first trimester of gestation, the fetus swallows amniotic fluid and not only absorbs the essential nutrients – such as glucose, fructose, fatty acids, and amino acids – but is also exposed to the bacteria in it. These bacteria then make their way to the fetal gut and form a part of the developing microbiome.

Studies show that nutrients and microbiota signals in the gut modulate brain function and behaviors. A lack of nutrients or exposure to bacteria from the mother may alter the development of the neural circuits that process these signals. When this happens, the child may face issues, such as obesity, autism, or irritable bowel disease later in life. 

Prenatal nutrients and microbes in amniotic fluid may have a long-lasting impact on a child’s development and health. Pregnant mothers should be conscious of their diet, especially during the first trimester. 

How You and Your Baby Can Benefit from Edible Bird’s Nest

Pregnant woman sitting on a couch holding her belly and a cup of tea
Edible bird’s nest is rich in proteins and has many health benefits for pregnant women.

The main components of a bird’s nest are proteins (approximately 40%-60%) and carbohydrates (about 20%-30%). It also contains antioxidants and 17 essential amino acids. You will also benefit from valine, isoleucine, phenylalanine, and mineral and metal ions like calcium, sodium, and potassium.

In 1981, an American scientist proved that edible bird’s nest contains two collagen-rich amino acids. These amino acids accelerate cell multiplication and promote epidermal growth. Professor YC Kong from the Chinese University of Hong Kong found in 1992 that bird’s nests contain the Mutagenic Stimulation Factor (MSF) and Epidermal Growth Factor (EGF). They can stimulate epidermal growth, prompt cells to break up hormones, and promote human cell regeneration. They can also enhance tissue growth and cell-induced immune function, which restores energy levels and helps people recover from illnesses.

Edible Bird’s Nest in Traditional Chinese Medicine

In TCM, edible bird’s nest is associated with the lung meridian. It can also nourish yin (cold) and improve the energy and qi (vital force) of the lungs. These functions can aid in managing respiratory diseases like bronchitis, pneumonia, and tuberculosis. Long-term smokers, on the other hand, can consume this to clean their lungs.

Bird nest is also gentle and neutral in nature, making it suitable for restoring energy levels in overworked people. People with gastric bleeding or ulcers can also consume the nest to repair damaged tissue and support healing. This delicacy has egg-like flavor. It’s great for nourishing the stomach, regulating the spleen, and improving the appetite of post-surgical patients. However, it’s important to note that not all edible bird nest products in the market are authentic. To prevent side effects from consuming an adulterated product, always buy from reputable retailers.

Nevertheless, this concentrated bird’s nest drink is a highly nutritious delicacy that offers a wide range of health benefits for you and your baby. It’s rich in amino acids, which can help improve metabolism, skin texture to prevent stretch marks and increase stamina. This beverage is safe for pregnant women to consume since it’s free of artificial coloring, flavoring, and preservatives.

It Boosts Intelligence

Bird’s nest contains sialic acid, a natural brain nutrient that promotes infant memory and mental development. A 2003 study by Colombo reported exciting findings: sufficient intake of sialic acid in early pregnancy promotes fetal brain development and strengthens brain cell connections!  

Additionally, if consumed postpartum, edible bird’s nest can improve the quality of breast milk, promoting a baby’s physical and intellectual development.

It Strengthens Immunity

Even if bird’s nest doesn’t have any significant antimicrobial properties, it contains prebiotic nutrients like glycans and glycopeptides. These nutrients can promote the growth of beneficial gut bacteria. These prebiotics have their own health benefits, including improved gut health, cancer inhibition, immune stimulation, and reduction of cardiovascular disease.

The active glycoproteins can also aid cells in preventing bacterial and viral infections. They also help to improve the identification of foreign tissue cells. As previously mentioned, the healthy gut microbiome of pregnant mothers is also beneficial for the development of the fetus. Alternatively, an intake of sialic acid through breast milk can also strengthen a baby’s lungs and immune system. 

Anti-aging Benefits and Improves Skin Condition

Birds’ nest consumption can supplement the body with cytokinin — a hormone that promotes cell division (cytokinesis). It also has Epidermal Growth Factor (EGF) proteins, which help stimulate, increase, and regenerate various cells to aid in the recovery of damaged skin, burns, and corneal damage.

For postpartum moms, this means less noticeable stretch marks too. This is because bird’s nest contains collagen, which maintains the skin’s elasticity. Plus, it also aids in uterus recovery post-birth.

How to Prep Edible Bird’s Nest for Cooking

Raw Bird's nest on bamboo basket
To cook a raw bird’s nest, you can boil it in water and add sugar for added flavor.

You can prepare bird nest drink in 3 simple steps: 

1. Steep

Soak one piece of bird’s nest (serves 2-3 people) in warm water for 2 hours or until it has expanded and has a soft texture. Watch out for fine feathers or other impurities in the bird’s nest and remove them during this process.

2. Add water and ingredients 

Place the soaked nest in a double boiler with two bowls (1 3/4 cup) of water and cane sugar (1/2 cup, adjust to taste). You may also use rock sugar in place of cane sugar. 

3. Cook

Boil for 3 hours with a medium flame, and you will have a simple, nutritious bowl for you and your baby. 

For mothers who would like to enjoy this in various ways, you may add other ingredients. Common toppings are red dates, goji berries, Asian pear, or papaya. You can even replace water with chicken broth and add some corn starch to satisfy those umami cravings. You can also opt to get preboiled and vacuum-packed edible bird’s nest from reputable brands for added assurance in quality and safety.

Every mom wants a healthy child. The first trimester is critical time for your baby to get access to nutrients. Reap the benefits of consuming bird nests during pregnancy and set the foundation for your child’s health today.

References

  1. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience. 2018. You are what you (first) eat  [Accessed 20 October 2021] 
  2. Frontiers in Pharmacology. 2021. Edible bird’s nest: the functional values of the prized animal-based bioproduct from Southeast Asia–a review [Accessed 20 October 2021] 
  3. Neural Plasticity. 2018. Effect of maternal administration of edible bird’s nest on the learning and memory abilities of suckling offspring in mice  [Accessed 20 October 2021] 
  4. International Food Research Journal. 2018. Assessment on bioactive components of hydrolysed edible bird nest [Accessed 20 October 2021] 
  5. Annals of Microbiology. 2019. Characterization of edible swiftlet’s nest as a prebiotic ingredient using a simulated colon model [Accessed 20 October 2021] 
  6. Pharmacognosy Magazine. 2020. Anti-aging, anti-inflammatory, and wound-healing activities of edible bird’s nest in human skin keratinocytes and fibroblasts [Accessed 20 October 2021] 

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