We have all heard our fair share of medical myths and rumors such as “you can’t go swimming for an hour after eating” or “chewing gum takes seven years to digest.” For the most part, these tall tales are harmless. However, superstition and misinformation surrounding topics such as pregnancy can have serious real-world consequences. Read on to learn the truth behind 11 of the most common pregnancy myths.
Pregnant Women Need to Eat a Lot More
Many incorrectly believe that pregnant women need to significantly increase their caloric intake. This is, in fact, false. Most pregnant women do not need over 2,000 calories per day to attain adequate nutrition. It is far more important that rather than increasing their calorie count, pregnant women focus on eating high quality and nutrient-dense foods to get all the nutrients they need for themselves and the developing fetus.
Pregnant Women Should Exercise Less
Pregnancy can be quite taxing on the body. As such, many believe that pregnant women should limit their physical activity as much as possible. However, engaging in a safe level of physical activity during pregnancy can support a healthy pregnancy by improving sleep quality, balancing blood sugar, and alleviating stress. Studies show that pregnant women who exercise safely throughout their term recover faster than those who do not.
*There are certain activities to avoid while pregnant including those with a higher risk of falling (skiing, outdoor cycling, upright water sports etc.), and core exercises such as sit-ups, crunches, and planks.
Pregnant women Should Avoid Spicy Food
Spicy foods have a legendary quality of being able to induce labor and even alter the temperament of babies. These are unfounded. Pregnant women who have a taste for heat should feel fully empowered to enjoy their favorite spicy dishes. However, if spicy foods cause you heart burn or discomfort, it may be best to avoid them during pregnancy.
Pregnant Women Can’t Drink Coffee or Alcohol
Excess caffeine or alcohol can be damaging to unborn children. However, pregnant women can still safely consume these substances if done so at the appropriate amount. Alcoholic beverages should be limited to one drink per day as excess can cause fetal alcohol syndrome. Caffeinated beverages such as coffee are also acceptable as long as caffeine consumption is limited to 200mg or less per day.
Having Sex While Pregnant Can Damage the Baby
Having sex while pregnant is often considered off-limits or unwise. But in actuality, medical experts broadly agree that sex during pregnancy is a healthy activity that can provide various benefits. Studies show that sex during pregnancy reduces the risk for preeclampsia (high blood pressure and organ damage), eases labor, and may improve the bond between partners.
*Pregnant women should not have sex if there is any bleeding, signs of preterm labor, or if their water has broken.
Pregnant Women Need More Rest
Pregnancy may cause you to feel more tired than usual. However, this is not a universal experience. In fact, many pregnant women report that being active in the face of fatigue results in greater energy and clear-headedness. When pregnant, it is best to listen to your body and rest when you need to rather than force yourself to sleep more or nap with increasing frequency.
Bad Weather Can Induce Labor
There is a myth that poor weather, specifically weather that causes a drop in barometric pressure like that seen during storms, can induce labor. Several studies have been done on the subject with varying results. Ultimately, it has been shown that bad weather does not have any notable influence on when labor occurs and should not be considered at all during pregnancy.
Pregnant Women Shouldn’t Run
There is a common misconception that running while pregnant can be harmful to the baby. In reality, most forms of exercise, running included, are considered safe while pregnant. Some studies show that pregnant women who run see benefits such as improved mood and better sleep. Research suggests that running while pregnant may even help build strength in the fetal cardiac system.
All Medications Are Safe to Take During Pregnancy
It is easy to think every day medications are fine to take during pregnancy. However, the truth is we really don’t know. According to the CDC, of the 54 over the counter medications most commonly used by women, only 2 have been studied regarding their impact on pregnancy. However, we know that certain medications like blood sugar regulators, antidepressants, and blood pressure medications should be avoided during pregnancy. When pregnant, the best course of action is to limit medication use as much as possible and speak with your doctor if you have any concerns about medications you are using.
Pregnant Women Can’t Eat Seafood
Mercury is found in many commonly consumed fish, including swordfish and tuna. Normally these values are negligible and pose a minimal health risk. During pregnancy, however, heavy consumption of seafoods containing mercury can damage the fetus. That said, pregnant women can still enjoy seafood while staying safe. When pregnant it is best to focus on eating smaller fish, like salmon, sardines, and anchovies, that contain less mercury. It is also recommended that pregnant women limit consumption of seafood to just two servings per week.
Pregnant Women Can’t Take Baths
There are rumors that taking a bath while pregnant increases the risk for infection. In most cases this is untrue. The only reason a bath may pose any more risk than a shower is if the woman’s water has already broken. Aside from this specific situation, pregnant women should take a relaxing bath whenever they want.
Understand Pregnancy Myths and Superstitions
There are plenty of rumors and tall tales surrounding pregnancy. Although some pregnancy myths contain a small amount of truth within them, they rarely ever tell the complete story. In most cases, pregnancy myths are entirely unfounded. If you have questions or concerns about pregnancy or pregnancy-related rumors, the best course of action is to ask your doctor for clarification.
1. May, Linda E et al. “Aerobic exercise during pregnancy influences fetal cardiac autonomic control of heart rate and heart rate variability.” Early human development vol. 86,4 (2010): 213-7.
2. Polman, R et al. “Effect of a single bout of exercise on the mood of pregnant women.” The Journal of sports medicine and physical fitness vol. 47,1 (2007): 103-11.
3. Hinman, Sally K et al. “Exercise in Pregnancy: A Clinical Review.” Sports health vol. 7,6 (2015): 527-31.
4. APA. “Foods to Avoid When Pregnant.” American Pregnancy Association.
5. Kho, Ee Min et al. “Duration of sexual relationship and its effect on preeclampsia and small for gestational age perinatal outcome.” Journal of reproductive immunology vol. 82,1 (2009): 66-73.
6. APA. “Sex During Pregnancy.” American Pregnancy Association.
7. Kenneth L. Noller, MD, Laurence J. Resseguie, PhD, Valerie Voss. “The effect of changes in atmospheric pressure on the occurrence of the spontaneous onset of labor in term pregnancies.” DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/S0002-9378(96)70661-0.
8. Akutagawa, O., Nishi, H. & Isaka, K. “Spontaneous delivery is related to barometric pressure.” Arch Gynecol Obstet 275, 249–254 (2007).
9. Bose-O’Reilly, Stephan et al. “Mercury exposure and children’s health.” Current problems in pediatric and adolescent health care vol. 40,8 (2010): 186-215.