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10 Biggest Pregnancy Myths Debunked

November 7th, 2010


People have been providing pregnant women with all kinds of advice – welcome and unwelcome, true and superstitious – since the beginning of recorded history (and probably before then, too.) Most moms-to-be are familiar with the seemingly unending list of things they're not supposed to do or should always do offered up by doctors, nurses, mothers-in-law, friends and even people on the street. Yet not all those dos and don'ts, myths and recommendations of pregnancy are necessarily true. Here are some of the biggest pregnancy myths and the truth that underlies them so new moms can make up their own minds about what's fact and what's fiction.

  1. You can't eat fish while pregnant. It's true that some types of fish contain mercury, which can be harmful to both you and your developing baby, and fillets that have been improperly prepared or stored can cause food poisoning. Yet that doesn't mean that women should avoid all fish during pregnancy. If it was as harmful as this myth leads pregnant women to believe, there'd be a lot more trouble with child birthing in places like Japan where fish-based dishes are a common practice. Instead of eliminating all fish from your diet, eat smart and stick to smaller fish and those that have been frozen first to kill any parasites that could make you sick. Fish are packed with valuable Omega-3 fatty acids that will enhance the development of the baby's brain and help you from going into premature labor. If you're still uncomfortable with the idea, stock up on fish oil supplements instead.
  2. Dying your hair while pregnant will hurt the baby. In times past, this myth may have been entirely true. But since the 1980's, hair dyes have been free from the many of the harmful substances that could injure your developing baby. Of course, each brand is different and some will contain more ingredients you'll feel safer avoiding than others, so you'll need to shop around or ask a professional for help. The greatest risk of exposure to the child is during the first trimester, and most doctors will green light hair coloring from the second trimester on. If you seek out eco-friendly and non-toxic dyes, you should be able to dye your hair without worry throughout your pregnancy – though these vegetable-based solutions may not last as long. If you want to avoid chemicals contacting your scalp, switch to simple highlights or lowlights, which can be applied without touching your scalp. With so many options these days, women don't have to give up looking good to keep their babies healthy.
  3. Carrying high means a girl, carrying low means a boy. This is one of the most widely spread myths about pregnancy and one that is based on absolutely zero medical evidence. It gets passed on because, very often, it is right. But that's not because it's sound from a scientific standpoint. That's because it has a fifty-fifty chance of being right, pretty good odds when you think about it. Studies have shown that there is no scientific merit to this myth, but that's unlikely to stop its repetition. Moms-to-be should just keep in mind that there's no way to tell the sex of a bay without and ultrasound or until he or she is actually born. The shape of your belly is determined by your muscle tone and how close you are to delivery, not the sex of the baby.
  4. Babies should be kept indoors after birth. There are many people out there who believe that babies should be kept indoors for the first few months after birth to protect them from the elements and any potential illness they might contract. The reality is, they have just as much of a chance of getting sick inside the home as out – especially if you have a lot of guests coming to see your little one. Your baby will be born with an immune system in place, but it does take some time to develop fully, so make sure anyone who touches your baby washes their hands first and keep the little one away from those who are sick. As long as you bundle your little one up if it's chilly out, avoid big crowds where your child could be coughed or sneezed on and use your common sense, you should feel safe taking your baby with you anywhere and everywhere.
  5. You shouldn't take baths or go swimming while you are pregnant. It's unclear whether this myth is rooted in the fear that women will contract an infection or because, more ridiculously, that she'll drown the baby by submerging herself in water above the waist. Both fears, however, have no scientific evidence to back them up, and healthy pregnant women should feel free to swim and bathe as they see fit. The only time pregnant women should skip the submersion? When the water is over 100 degrees Fahrenheit and in cases where she has lost the mucus plug protecting her baby – which could invite infection. Women may even find that taking a bath or getting in the pool helps them relieve some the stress carrying around that extra baby weight puts on their bodies.
  6. Pregnant women shouldn't sleep on their backs. This myth states that pregnant women cannot sleep on their backs because it will close off the blood flow to the uterus and slowly kills the developing baby. It is true that laying on your back to sleep can cause reduced blood flow. Will this kill your baby or cause permanent damage? It's incredibly unlikely. A pregnant woman's body warns her of decreased blood flow long before it can become an issue, making her uncomfortable enough to change positions. A pregnant woman who has a healthy pregnancy should feel free to lay however she feels comfortable, including on her back, without worrying about any long-term damage to her child. After all, if laying on your back was so bad, why would women deliver babies that way in the hospital?
  7. Avoiding spicy food will help protect your baby. If spicy foods meant premature labor or trouble for a developing baby, then women in a wide range of cultures around the world would be in a lot of trouble. Spicy food is perfectly safe for women to eat no matter where they are in their pregnancy and will not send them into labor, impede development or in any way harm the baby's skin. The only real side effect from eating spicy foods? Heartburn. Many women already suffer from it and spicy foods can make it worse. If they don't bother you then feel free to eat away.
  8. Lotions can help prevent stretch marks. Think rubbing that cocoa butter or vitamin E lotion on your belly will prevent stretch marks? No matter what advertisements on TV tell you, this simply isn't the case. While the lotion might help soothe your skin as it is pulled taut by you rapidly expanding mid-section, it won't keep those stretch marks at bay. The only factor that determines whether or not you'll get stretch marks is your genetics. Some people will have skin that's elastic enough to stretch without damage and others will get highly visible marks even when they're carrying a small baby. While it won't hurt to put lotion on your belly, the best it can do is to help keep your skin moisturized and as healthy as possible so you'll lessen the impact of any scarring that might occur.
  9. Pregnant women should avoid travel. This myth is two-pronged. For airline travel, some think that the x-rays and sensors of airport security systems will harm the baby. The amount of X-ray radiation used is incredibly minimal and should not hurt you or your developing child. Secondly, some people think women just shouldn't travel at all while pregnant. If you can't bear to think of a nine month hiatus from going pretty much anywhere other than to run simple errands, then you're in luck since this is just another pregnancy myth. Up until 34 weeks, healthy women with a normal pregnancy should feel free to travel just as if they're not pregnant. This limit isn't because it isn't safe to travel afterwards, but because you probably don't want to end up giving birth while away from home and your own doctor or somewhere where there might not be immediate medical care. Like a plane, for instance.
  10. You shouldn't pet your cat while pregnant. This pregnancy myth is rooted in good intentions, as contact with cat litter can cause a woman to contract a parasite known as toxoplasma gondii. This parasite can cause serious deformities in a developing fetus, so pregnant women should enjoy a blissful nine months of getting someone else to do the work. Other interactions with your cat, however, should be perfectly safe. Mothers shouldn't feel wary petting, feeding, playing and cuddling with their cats, especially since they'll soon have little time for them when the new baby arrives. For those who are worried, make sure to wash your hands after contact with your furry friend and you should be in the clear. Additionally, the risk of contracting the illness from an indoor cat is pretty small, as the parasite is transmitted to the cat by eating prey already carrying the parasite– something your cat food only eating cat probably doesn't have to worry about.


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