Pregnancy Myths

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Despite huge scientific and technological advances that have transformed the world of medicine, we still love to indulge in some old wives’ tales when it comes to pregnancy and childbirth.

Thanks to modern technology, we now have prenatal medical testing to find out everything from the amount of amniotic fluid in the uterus to the baby’s sex or weight.

In most cases, pregnancy myths are harmless and fun, though in some cases these myths could go too far.

Image Credit: Natalia Deriabina / Shutterstock
Image Credit: Natalia Deriabina / Shutterstock

Common Myths Related to Pregnancy

Should I avoid certain foods while pregnant?

People often say some foods such as dairy products and peanuts should be avoided during pregnancy, as the baby can become allergic to these foods. Unless the pregnant woman herself is allergic to these foods, it is totally safe to eat them unless your doctor says not to.

However, some foods such as raw fish, raw meat, and uncooked eggs are best avoided during pregnancy, as they can contain harmful microbes that can cause infection.

Can I tell the sex of my baby?

It is fun when people start guessing or predicting the baby’s sex. Some people claim that the sex can be predicted by the shape of the belly, or by watching the direction in which a wedding ring turns while held over the tummy, or by the baby’s movement levels inside the tummy. None of this works. An ultrasound scan is, in most cases, a reliable way to find out the sex of the baby.

Should I be eating for two?

People often tell pregnant women to eat for two by increasing the quantity of food intake. Although women do need to increase their calorie consumption, they should not  double their food intake.

Instead, they should focus on food quality rather than quantity, eat when they are hungry, and aim to increase their daily intake by about 300 calories.

Eating a healthy and balanced diet containing enough fiber, complex carbohydrates, protein, fat, and other key nutrients is crucial during pregnancy.

Should I stop exercising?

Pregnant women are often confused about whether they can continue being active or working out during pregnancy, with many old wives tales tell them to stay put. But most household chores and common exercises should be safe during pregnancy, though each pregnancy is different, and it is important to consult with your physician before engaging in strenuous exercises.

Generally speaking, being active during pregnancy is crucial for the health of the mom and the baby.

Can morning sickness happen at other times of day?

Morning sickness is the name given to nausea, vomiting, and other abdominal discomforts experienced by many pregnant women. Although these discomforts usually occur in the morning, they can happen at any time of the day or night, as they are triggered by hormonal fluctuations.

In most women, these discomforts improve after the first trimester, though some women experience morning sickness even in their second or third trimester.

Can I keep my pet and continue gardening?

Contrary to prevailing myths, pregnant women do not need to give away their pets or give up gardening altogether.

They just need to take some precautions while handling pet litter or while gardening, like wearing a glove. This is to avoid serious infections such as toxoplasmosis that can affect the unborn baby.

Should pregnant women prepare their nipples for breastfeeding?

There is no scientific evidence to suggest that pregnant women need to prepare or toughen their nipples for breastfeeding before the baby is born.

Natural changes that breasts undergo during pregnancy prepare them for breastfeeding by thickening the area around the nipples and producing oils that lubricate the area. Hormonal changes after giving birth makes the nipples stretchier for the baby to nurse.

Is it OK to have an occasional alcoholic drink during pregnancy?

Another famous myth is it is safe for pregnant woman to have an occasional drink without any adverse effects for the baby. The fact is no amount of alcohol intake is safe during pregnancy. Even 1 drink every week or two has been associated with birth defects or increased risk for growth and learning problems. Pregnant women must avoid alcohol completely so as to keep their baby safe.

Should I get a flu shot while pregnant?

Yes! Pregnant women are often asked to avoid flu shots. However, this is ill advised, as flu shots are crucial during pregnancy.

The flu can cause severe illness that can seriously hurt the mother and baby, and can even cause death. Flu shots are perfectly safe and effective during pregnancy.

Moderate smoking is OK during pregnancy

A dangerous myth is that smoking fewer cigarettes is OK during pregnancy. There is no safe level of smoking for pregnant women. Smoking leads to serious health risks for the baby and mother. Smoking during pregnancy boosts the risk of low birth weight and impairs functioning of baby’s developing lungs.

Please keep in mind that every puff increases the level of carbon monoxide in the bloodstream, which is turn makes less oxygen available for the baby. Smoking also increases the baby’s risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) after birth.

Pregnancy Myth Buster

Further Reading

Last Updated: Nov 19, 2018

Susha Cheriyedath

Written by

Susha Cheriyedath

Susha is a scientific communication professional holding a Master's degree in Biochemistry, with expertise in Microbiology, Physiology, Biotechnology, and Nutrition. After a two-year tenure as a lecturer from 2000 to 2002, where she mentored undergraduates studying Biochemistry, she transitioned into editorial roles within scientific publishing. She has accumulated nearly two decades of experience in medical communication, assuming diverse roles in research, writing, editing, and editorial management.


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