Experts Debunk the Most Common Pregnancy Myths
Years of TV watching have taught us that when women get pregnant, they want weird foods like pickles and ice cream and that they need to avoid fish and never, ever eat spicy food. Well, not all of that is true.
While most of these old wives’ tales about pregnancy are harmless, we like everything served up with a generous amount of science. We’re here to make sure you understand exactly what is a myth and what has some merit to it when it comes to pregnancy.
So, let’s break it down!
As always, this information never, ever, takes the place of the advice from your provider!
Getting A Flu Shot When Pregnant
Influenza is a serious illness that can present a risk to both mother and baby, so it is advisable for a pregnant woman to have the flu shot. The type of vaccine available is an inactive influenza, and it has not demonstrated an increased risk for pregnant women, or postpartum or breastfeeding moms.
No matter what stage you are in your pregnancy during “flu season”, you should get the vaccine, and it’s important to get it before there has been an outbreak of the flu in your area. Your provider may also suggest other vaccines depending on when you are pregnant.
Eating for 2 During Pregnancy
Bring on the bowls of ice cream; the baby wants some! While it’s true that you may need to take in extra calories, it’s essential to recognize that the right kinds of food are important, not just lots of extra mint chocolate chip! Eating the right food during pregnancy, and the right amount, actually decreases your child’s risk for some childhood and adult diseases.
For the average mom-to-be carrying one baby, you should be taking in about 340-450 extra calories a day during your second and third trimesters and not increasing your calories at all during the first trimester. Your initial assessment with your provider may include a visit with a nutritionist who can advise on what packs a caloric mega punch rather than empty calories.
You don’t need to completely avoid sweets while pregnant, but make sure they fit into a balanced diet! This is generally what is advised for pregnant women, though protein, carbs, and fiber may be increased towards the end of your pregnancy. The total calories for most women in their last two trimesters is between 2200 and 2900 calories per day.
Drinking Diet Soda During Pregnancy
During the ’70s and ’80s, when new substances like aspartame were added to soda to make them “diet,” there was concern that the soft drinks’ chemicals resulted in miscarriage and low birth weight. Although clinical studies on the short- and long-term effects of consumption of these substances during pregnancy are limited, no data suggest that the use of aspartame (NutraSweet, Equal), sucralose (Splenda), saccharin (Sweet'N Low), acesulfame potassium (Sunett, Sweet One), or stevioside (Stevia, Truvia, SweetLeaf) by pregnant women increases the risk of congenital disabilities.
That being said, water is always your best choice!
Avoid Caffeine During Pregnancy
Do you need to kick that coffee habit to the curb? The key here is understanding how much caffeine is in what you consume. Coffee has anywhere from 50-70% more caffeine than tea and other beverages, so check your labels and follow your practitioner’s advice about your caffeine intake. Up to date studies show that moderate caffeine intake ( less than 200 mg a day) is not associated with miscarriage or pre-term birth, but the effects of fetal growth remain unclear.
According to Starbucks, a Grande Blonde Roast contains 360 mg of caffeine while a Grande Pumpkin Spice Latte contains 150 mg of caffeine. So, make good choices!
We also know that caffeine is detectable in breast milk within 15 minutes of consumption, and the levels peak after about an hour. Some babies may be sensitive to its effects, and it can cause wakefulness and infant irritability. So enjoy that drink after a feeding and let it work its magic in you...and not baby!
Flying While Pregnant
The good news: commercial airline travel is generally safe for air travel up to 37 weeks with a single baby on board, and 32 weeks with twins. Anyone with complicated pregnancies needs to check with their practitioner, and you also should check on the airline policies before you book.
The not-so-good news: the potential for exposure to infectious diseases while flying does increase. If you get the go-ahead to travel from your practitioner, be sure to practice good hygiene, wear a mask, and avoid flying while ill. Also, talk about what diseases may be present at your destination.
Other considerations for flying while pregnant are venous thromboembolism (blood clot) from the restricted mobility on the flight. Wear loose clothing, and ask if below the knee graduated compression stockings are recommended. Be sure to drink lots of water too, the recirculated air when flying can dehydrate you.
Avoid Fish While Pregnant
You’ve been told that fish is good food, so why not when you’re pregnant? Actually, most fish is an excellent source of protein, DHA and Omega-3 fatty acids. Some fish are not advisable to eat because they are high in mercury, causing neurotoxicity, which disrupts the nervous system functions.
Stress During Pregnancy
Stress is inevitable in life, and most certainly during pregnancy. Since everyone handles stress differently, it’s tough to measure in a scientific manner. Still, it only stands to reason that a mom-to-be who is in a stressful situation is more prone to high blood pressure, depression, and other ailments.
There has long been some association between stress and preterm birth because stress can ramp up your prostaglandin production, which initiates contractions. But again, it’s unclear if it’s just stress or some other underlying medical condition that is causing this problem.
Increasing your social contacts, participating in mind-body activities like yoga and meditation, and prenatal massages help many people’s stress levels. Though it can’t be linked to significantly rescue the rate of preterm birth, we do know that if these activities calm you and makes you feel good, this can lower your stress levels.
Eating Cheese and Processed Meat During Pregnancy
Cheese and processed meat get the brunt of the bad PR when it comes to getting pregnant women sick, but there are a few more food items that you should avoid when pregnant. These foods can cause Listeriosis, a serious infection that is caused by the bacteria Listeria Monocytogenes.
Make sure the cheese and milk you consume are pasteurized. Raw milk or cheeses such as queso fresco, blue cheese or feta are not always heat treated and can put you at risk for Listeriosis. Make sure all your cheese and milk products are kept refrigerated at 40 Fahrenheit or colder.
Deli meat, sausage and hot dogs should always be heated to 165 degrees or steamed just before eating to kill bacteria. These meats are generally high in sodium and contain chemicals to keep them fresh, so consume infrequently. Pass on refrigerated meat spreads from the deli, but shelf-stable pâté can be consumed and refrigerated after opening.
Melon can be a source of Listeria, so never eat melon that has been on a buffet line or at a picnic. Instead, purchase your own and eat right away or refrigerate for no more than 5 days.
Skip the sprouts while pregnant: these crunchy little devils can harbor bacteria even when washed. Avoid all kinds: alfalfa, clover, radish, and mung bean.
What about eating spinach during pregnancy? Spinach has many benefits to mom and baby but be sure to rinse it well and don’t reheat it as it can release large amounts of nitrate levels when overcooked. If you have a history of kidney stones, you may want to avoid it as it can trigger painful episodes.
Giving up Nail Polish and Hair Dye When Pregnant
If you are healthy, then spa services like getting your nails done during pregnancy or having your hair dyed are generally seen as safe activities. Some practitioners will advise using more plant-based products for hair and “5- Free” products for your nails, which means no Toluene, Dibutyl Phthalate (DBP), or Formaldehyde.
Some women are more sensitive to chemicals and scents when pregnant, so make sure the area is well-ventilated.
Pregnancy Sleep Positions
You’ll probably quickly find that sleeping on your stomach is uncomfortable, so for that reason; most women sleep on their side. An urban legend that sleeping on your back causes stillbirth has not been proven; in fact, a study evaluated maternal sleep position and showed the difference between women sleeping on their backs or their side showed an increased risk of stillbirth was 0.01-0.04%. That should reassure you that you can sleep in any position that you are comfortable in.
If it's hard for you to sleep, make sure that you have a dark, quiet space that you sleep in, that your bed is not filled with toys or other things like, work computers, your phone, or your iPad. All of those things trick your body into not knowing what time you're supposed to be sleeping and what time you're supposed to be awake.
More tips for better sleep throughout the trimesters.
Exercising While Pregnant
The best advice on how much and what kind of exercise is best doesn’t come from your BFF or a pregnancy website, it comes from your practitioner. Here’s what we know for sure, even gentle amounts of exercise are beneficial!
Avoid Spicy Food During Pregnancy
If you like things hot hot hot usually, you might be surprised to find that when you get pregnant, your tastebuds change a little. Spicy foods can irritate your throat and may also cause reflux because of hormonal changes and the pressure on your stomach.
Eating spicy foods won’t harm you or your baby as long as you and your body can tolerate them, and you don’t have adverse side effects.
Inducing Labor at Home
Your grandmother swears that all her kids were born after a healthy dose of castor oil, and your partner says they heard that sex can kick start labor. Do any of these “home remedies” get the party started? Well, there’s no evidence beyond anecdotal evidence that this is true. We’re going by science, remember!
What we do know is that your baby’s brain, heart, lungs, and liver are developing right into those crucial last weeks of pregnancy. Induction before your body is ready may also increase your chances of a cesarean section. If things stall out or don’t start on their own, your practitioner will make the call on if you need to be induced. But don’t be too quick to rush things!
Worried about a pregnancy “fact” or myth that has your head spinning? You know what we are going to say! Pick up the phone and leave a message for your practitioner. They know your pregnancy best.