All expectant mothers hear endless amounts of myths based on old wives’ tales, superstition, and just plain rumors.
Mary Williams, Board-Certified Nurse Midwife, CNM, APNP, at the Kaldas Center debunks 16 popular pregnancy myths.
Myth #1: Pregnancy is 9 months.
False! Actually, the average pregnancy has been shown to be 280 days which translates into 40 weeks, or 10 months! This dating goes off your last menstrual period, which gives you credit for about 2 weeks that you weren’t even pregnant yet.
Myth #2: Once a C-section always a C-section.
False! While having a vaginal birth may not be the safest option for everyone who has experienced a C-section in the past, for many people it is. A Vaginal Birth After Cesarean section is often termed VBAC (“V-back”) and is often an option for women, especially if the initial C-section was for something like breech, or if the mother has had a successful vaginal birth prior to her Cesarean section. Talk to your doctor or midwife to see if a VBAC might be right for you.
Myth #3: Only doctors can deliver babies.
False! The mother actually “delivers” the baby, and they have been doing so for thousands of years. Midwives, Nurse-Midwives, Family Practice Doctors and OB/GYNs are all qualified to attend a woman during her delivery. Each is specially trained to assist with specific types of deliveries, from the normal and healthy to the complex and high risk.
Myth #4: Pregnancy always results in stretch marks, varicose veins, or excess weight gain.
False! Every woman is different, every pregnancy is different, and every body is different. Some of these things are genetic and will occur despite creams, lotions, exercising or diet. But there are some women who manage to get by without any of these typical “badges of honor.”
Myth #5: If you have lots of heartburn during pregnancy, your baby has lots of hair.
False! Heartburn makes its appearance in most pregnancies in one way or another, even in the most bald of babies. The hormones that are designed to help your body relax and accommodate a growing baby also relax the sphincters that are supposed to keep your stomach acid in your stomach. This, and a growing baby’s tushy pushing up on your stomach, will often result in heartburn. Fortunately, most heartburn is quickly relieved once that baby (hair or not) is born.
Myth #6: If your baby has a fast heartbeat, it’s a girl; slower heartbeat, it’s a boy!
False! In fact, babies’ heartbeats vary all the time, from 110 beats per minute up to 160+ beats per minute. Guessing the sex based on the rate at any given time is tricky based on these constant changes. But the good news is, you have a 50/50 chance of being right.
Myth #7: Pregnancy means “Eating for Two!”
False! Not even close. Eating 4,000 calories a day (2,000+2,000) will undoubtedly result in massive weight gain that most moms will find difficult (to impossible) to lose after the baby is born. More recent studies say that for an average mother (BMI 18.5-24.9), 300 additional calories (2,300 calories total) per day is all that is necessary to accommodate a normal singleton pregnancy. Sorry to burst your bubble!
(This may be different for twins, mothers who are underweight, and those who have other health concerns.)
Myth #8: You shouldn’t run during your pregnancy.
False! Actually, exercise during pregnancy is safe and healthy for most pregnant women. Pregnancy is not the time to start training for a marathon, but if running is a part of your normal exercise routine, then continuing it will likely benefit both you and baby (so long as you are comfortable and have no complications).
A good rule of thumb: Whatever exercise you were doing prior to pregnancy (provided it is physically safe for you, your tummy, and your baby) is safe to do during pregnancy. However, things like scuba diving, base jumping and UFC cage fighting are still off the table.
Myth #9: The weight of baby, placenta and fluid will equal the weight you gained during pregnancy (meaning you should pack pre-pregnancy clothes for your trip home from the hospital).
False! Probably not. There are many things that add to that glorious number on the scale. Baby, placenta and amniotic fluid certainly take up a large portion of that. But so do things like your very large uterus (which you get to keep after delivery). The increased blood volume can be up to 50%. That is like adding more than 1 liter of additional blood to your body. That larger bra you had to buy a few weeks ago, is holding two more culprits of your increasing weight. And your body does reserve some added fat in the event of an emergency. All these things will eventually return to normal, but it will take time, and maybe even a bit of hard work in the postpartum period to get back into those skinny jeans!
Myth #10: Having sex while pregnant will hurt baby’s head.
False! Not likely. Most vaginas are plenty long to accommodate a penis, of all sizes. Beyond the vagina is the cervix which can range from 3cm to 5cm long. Then there is the amniotic sac and fluid, and then the baby’s head (or butt, if the baby is breech). Therefore, babies are safe from interruption.
(Always check with your provider if you have any complications like placenta previa or incompetent cervix prior to having intercourse, but intercourse is very safe for most normal pregnancies.)
Myth #11: If you want a midwife, you have to deliver your baby at home or in a birth center.
False! While License Professional Midwives (LPM) and Certified Midwives (CM) are not licensed to attend births in hospitals in Wisconsin, Certified Nurse Midwives are. Certified Nurse Midwives (CNM) are Advanced Practice Nurses (like Nurse Practitioners) and are trained to independently manage pregnant women throughout their pregnancy, labor and birth, provided they remain healthy and low risk. CNMs work with OB/GYNs in the event that pregnancy, labor or the birth deviate from that normal.
Myth #12: You shouldn’t eat seafood when you are pregnant.
False! Actually, seafood is an excellent source of Omega-3s. Those “good fats” are thought to help with baby’s brain and eye development and are often missing from people’s diet who don’t eat fish and seafood. It is important to avoid shark, mackerel, swordfish, tilefish, orange roughy, Marlin, Albacore and Ahi Tuna because of high levels of mercury. And it is always a good idea to check with your local DNR to make sure local fish have low levels of contaminants. But if you enjoy fish, keeping it as a part of your diet can be very beneficial to you and baby.
Myth #13: You shouldn’t wear your seat belt while pregnant because it could hurt the baby in an accident.
False! Several studies have shown that the injuries sustained from seat belts are minor compared to those of women thrown around their car, into their steering wheel or being thrown completely from the vehicle. Wear your seat belt always, but especially during pregnancy when you have two lives to worry about.
Myth #14: You should get rid of your cat while you are pregnant.
False! If you are looking to get rid of your cat anyway, doing it early in pregnancy will save you from having to find someone else to clean the litter box. But just because you find out you are pregnant, you don’t necessarily need to send Mr. Sox packing. Toxoplasma gondii is a parasite that can be found and transmitted from cat feces and can be extremely harmful to a developing fetus. Avoiding the litter box is likely the best way to avoid contamination. However, most people who have lived with cats have probably been exposed to this already and are likely immune already. But why not give yourself a 9+ month vacation from the litter box and ask someone else to help you out?
Myth #15: Sushi is bad during your pregnancy.
False! It depends. For sushi connoisseurs out there, you probably know that it isn’t the sushi that is the concern, it is the sashimi or raw fish that we worry about. There are plenty of sushi rolls that don’t contain any raw fish, and those would be the ones that are best eating until the little one is born. And make sure to eat your sushi at a reputable place, one that isn’t likely to cross-contaminate their California roll with their Nigiri.
Myth #16: Buy your prenatal vitamins as soon as you get a positive pregnancy test.
False! Actually, prenatal vitamins, especially those with folic acid, tend to do some of their most important work before you are even pregnant. By ensuring that your folic acid stores are adequate before that sperm even meets the egg, you can help to decrease your chances of neural tube defects like Spina Bifida by having good Folate levels before you even miss your first period! So, if possible, start taking prenatal vitamins or any multivitamin with folic acid 3-6 months prior to trying to conceive, but certainly as soon as possible after a positive pregnancy test.