Truth or Tall Tale? Common pregnancy myths.

So, you just found out you’re pregnant—congratulations! So what comes next? Almost invariably, what comes is a flood of unsolicited advice from family, friends, and strangers who may or may not have any idea what they’re talking about.

In their defense, everyone is just trying to be helpful, but the fact is there’s a lot of bad information and misguided warnings about pregnancy floating around out there. And if you heeded every bit of folksy wisdom thrown your way, you’d have a long nine months of ordering double entrées, running away from cats, and telling your husband you “have a headache” every single night, for fear of harming your baby.

For our blog series on pregnancy myths, we asked Shelly Addison, Director of Labor and Delivery, and Lynn Jeter, our Women’s Support Services Educator, to set the record straight, and give us some insight into a few of the most common myths we hear. Hopefully you’ll learn a little something—and, as always, share with us some of your favorite for our next post!

“You can’t eat sushi, or any other kind of seafood, when you’re pregnant.”

Truth level: Some. Exercise caution.

Raw, undercooked, or contaminated fish should be avoided, so sushi is generally a “no-no.” Additionally, predatory fish such as shark, swordfish, and king mackerel are high in mercury which can accumulate in your blood stream and potentially damage your developing baby’s brain and nervous system.

However, fish that are safe to eat in small amounts (up to 12 oz. a week) are actually a great source of protein, iron, and zinc and are good for your baby’s development. Plus, the omega-3 fatty acids can be beneficial in your baby’s brain development. Safe seafood options include: salmon, anchovies, herring, sardines, trout, pollock, catfish, canned light tuna, and shrimp.

“You can’t have cats while you’re pregnant.”

Truth level: False, but with caveats.

You most certainly can own a cat while pregnant, but pregnant cat owners should avoid cleaning the litter box during pregnancy. So, yay! You get a nine month break from this lovely task!

Feline feces carry a disease known as Toxoplasmosis which can cause miscarriage and abnormalities in a developing baby. If you absolutely must clean the litter box yourself, wear gloves and a mask when handling the litter and wash your hands thoroughly when you are finished.

Once the baby is born, however, cat owners should be wary of allowing their kitties near the sleeping baby. There is an old wives’ tale that cats can “take the baby’s breath away”—but in truth cats can potentially curl up to sleep around the warm baby’s face, and prevent the baby from being able to breathe. Always exercise caution there.

“Sex while you’re pregnant can hurt the baby.”

Truth level: Old (lonely) wives’ tale.

Sex cannot harm your baby, thanks to the protective amniotic fluid and the strong muscles of the uterus. Babies in utero react differently to sex: your baby may become really active, or they may get rocked to sleep! Every baby is different!

However, there are certain conditions that your doctor may advise “pelvic rest” such as threatened preterm labor and placenta problems. (Pelvic rest being a polite medical term for “no sex.”)

“You can’t color your hair while you’re pregnant.”

Truth level: Unproven. Ask your physician.

According to Dr. Sarah Aultman of Brookwood Baptist Women’s Care, “There are no ‘gold standard’ studies that prove a relationship between hair dye and infant cancer. There is one well-designed study about the association of infant neuroblastoma and hair dye the month before or during pregnancy. However, it needs more patients in the study and more control of the variables before I recommend that my patients stop dyeing their hair. If it helps anyone out there decide, I plan on continuing to dye my hair from brown to blonde when I get pregnant!”

“Don’t lift your arms above your head or the baby will get the cord around its neck!”

Truth level: Completely unfounded.

This is an old wives’ tales that makes labor and delivery nurses chuckle!! There is no action with your arms that affects where the baby’s umbilical cord is located. Even so, the fact is up to 33% of babies are born with a cord around the neck, and it usually does not cause a problem.

“If you carry the baby high, it’s a girl. If you carry it low, it’s a boy.”

Truth level: Total baloney.

Untrue! That’s all we have to say about that!

“You’re eating for two.”

Truth level: Technically true—but on a small scale.

Actually, you *are* eating for two—but one of the two is really small!  You only need about 300 extra calories per day to support normal growth and development of the baby, so choose your calories wisely! Get the most bang for your buck by choosing high nutritive foods. Ultimately, you should consult with your physician about appropriate weight gain for your particular pregnancy.

“A full moon causes many women to go into labor.”

Truth level: Fully unfounded—scientifically.

There is no scientific evidence that this is statistically true, but many labor and delivery nurses might swear that it is!

“I need to have a birth plan when I come in to deliver”

Truth level: It’s up to you!

You will be asked upon arrival what your plans are for your labor and birth by your labor nurse. So you don’t have to bring anything in writing—however if you do, make sure you have already discussed your wishes with your physician ahead of time. Also, keep it short and keep an open mind. Ultimately, the goal is always a safe and healthy mom and baby.

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