Many of the old wives’ tales we hear nowadays aren’t around folklore or mystic creatures like it was for past generations. Our tales involve mystifying the things we can see and feel—like pregnancy. As a society, we have countless myths surrounding the no-longer misunderstood process of pregnancy and birth.
Some of those myths are fun, while others lead to confusion and misunderstanding about our biology. Here are the ten most common pregnancy myths and the science behind the truth.
Pregnancy Myth #1: You have to eat for two
Sorry to break this one to you, but eating for two during pregnancy is a myth. In fact, there’s no evidence to prove this myth and overeating can result in maternal weight gain and child obesity. Your baby will get everything they need from you for the first six months without you needing any extra calories. Once you get to the last trimester, you may need about 200 extra calories (on top of the 2,000 daily recommendation), per day.
Pregnancy Myth #2: You can’t drink caffeine while pregnant
In the past, pregnant women were advised to abstain from caffeine while pregnant, but recent studies show that moderate amounts are safe, as long as a few precautions are taken. In fact, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and other experts report that pregnant women can safely consume up to 200 milligrams of caffeine a day equivalent to a 12-ounce cup of coffee each day.
Remember that more than 200ml of caffeine a day can increase your risk of a miscarriage since caffeine can penetrate the placenta barrier, so be careful not to exceed your limit. Caffeine is also present in many sodas and chocolates so be extra mindful of them as well.
Pregnancy Myth #3: You can’t exercise while pregnant
Exercising is a good practice for you, your baby’s health, and your mental health. If you worked out before getting pregnant and are accustomed to your routine, continue your exercise program once you’ve consulted with your healthcare provider. Just avoid any new, strenuous activities like holding your breath, excessive bouncing or stretching, jumping, bouncing, and sudden jerk motions, advanced abdominal moves, and hot environments like hot yoga.
Aim for 30 minutes of physical activity for at least five days of the week (or a total of 150 minutes per week), all throughout your pregnancy. If you were not very active before you became pregnant, start with gentle exercises, like walking and low impact, at-home exercises.
Pregnancy Myth #4: You’ll have weird cravings
As widespread as this thought is, it’s a myth. Not all pregnant women have strange and urgent cravings and here’s why: Cravings are often triggered by hormonal changes in your body which affect taste and smell. Also, sharp dips and peaks in your blood sugar levels can give you cravings for sugary, comfort foods. But these hormonal and blood sugar variations are different from person to person. In fact, a lack of cravings doesn't mean there's something wrong with you or the baby. If you don’t crave fatty or sugary foods, count yourself blessed! You’re better able to make healthier meal choices throughout your pregnancy.
If you crave inedible things like dirt, clay or laundry detergent, call your doctor or midwife. This is known as Pica and can be a sign of severe anaemia that needs to be immediately addressed.
Pregnancy Myth #5: Morning sickness is just a morning thing
More than 70% of women experience nausea and/or vomiting during pregnancy. However, this sick feeling isn’t limited to morning hours but can occur at any time of day since it’s a result of periodic hormonal changes. For most women, morning sickness improves after the first trimester, but during those first three months, there are simple ways to care for yourself. While it might be tempting to skip meals, some women feel better after eating frequent, small snacks of dry cereal or toast or crackers. The B-6 vitamin and ginger tea are also common morning sickness remedies.
Pregnancy Myth #6: Creams and serums can prevent stretch marks
While some creams can help stretch marks fade faster after they appear, no cream can completely prevent stretch marks from surfacing if they’re part of your genetic makeup. However, moisturizing your skin can keep it in a supple state and help it recover faster. If you’re nervous about stretch marks, your best option is to diligently apply a moisturizer free of toxins three times a day throughout your pregnancy. This will keep your skin elastic and soft, and better adapted to stretch throughout and after your pregnancy. While shea butter, cocoa butter, and similar creams work well to minimize stretch marks, talk to your doctor about skincare options best suited for you.
Pregnancy Myth #7: You can’t be around cats while pregnant
If you’re a cat person or have cats, this is good news! Studies show that contact with cats doesn’t increase your risk of getting toxoplasmosis (an infection that can affect unborn babies). If you were infected with toxoplasmosis before your pregnancy, your unborn child will be protected by your immunity. However, if you’re pregnant you should avoid cat litter since the parasite that causes toxoplasmosis tends to live in cat feces. It’s also recommended that you avoid stray cats, have your litter box changed regularly, keep your cats indoors, and don’t get new cats while you're pregnant. If you tend to a garden, be sure to wear gloves when working in top soil or sand since it can be contaminated with cat feces. If you forget and tend your garden without gloves, wash your hands thoroughly with wash water and soap for at least 20 seconds.
Pregnancy Myth #8: You can tell the baby’s sex during pregnancy
Whether someone told you to check the position of the baby in your tummy, hold a wedding ring over your abdomen and watch in which direction it turns, or gauge the sex based on how active the baby is, you’ve been told a myth. None of these methods predict the sex of your little one. Instead, an ultrasound can give you physical images of your baby to help you and your doctor figure out the sex.
This specific pregnancy myth is fun, though—so use it as a fun game at your baby shower, not an accurate prediction of your baby’s sex.
Pregnancy Myth #9: You can drink a glass or two of wine while pregnant
While we’re accustomed to hearing that pregnant women shouldn’t drink, a recent myth surfacing that advised the opposite. Instead, a rumor has circulated in the last few years that it‘s okay to drink a glass of wine when you're pregnant. Unfortunately, since every woman is different and metabolizes alcohol differently, there’s no safe recommendation for alcohol consumption that safeguards against potential overuse and resulting harm to the developing fetus. Drinking is also cautioned against while breastfeeding since alcohol can get into breast milk.
Pregnancy Myth #10: You can’t have sex while pregnant because you’ll hurt your baby
You can certainly have sex while pregnant unless your doctor or midwife advised against it. Your partner’s penis can’t physically penetrate beyond your vagina. Instead, your baby is floating in a pool of liquid that’s surrounded by the thick muscle wall of your uterus. Your little kiddo is safe and won’t know what’s going on during sex.
If you’re having a normal pregnancy with no complications, having sex and orgasms won't increase your risk of going into labor early or cause a miscarriage. But be aware that sex and orgasms later in pregnancy can trigger mild contractions known as Braxton Hicks contractions. While they’re uncomfortable, they're perfectly normal and will pass.
If you’re pregnant with questions about any of these myths or think you might be pregnant, come visit us at The Source! Our clinics are staffed with kind, nonjudgmental medical and counseling staff and our menu of services include free and low-cost pregnancy services. Click the image below to book a free appointment today!