Myths About Pregnancy

Myths About Pregnancy

It’s time we set the record straight on some of the more common misconceptions about pregnancy and birth. 

Expecting a baby is an exciting time, but it can also be overwhelming. It’s often hard to know what to believe with so many well-meaning people offering advice. Generally your prenatal team (obstetrician, GP or midwife) is the best source of information about pregnancy. Here are a few of the more common pregnancy myths debunked.

You’re Eating for Two so You Can Eat More

While pregnancy does require extra energy, most women will only need about 800kj extra daily energy, which is the equivalent of about one 200g tub of yoghurt or two small, plain muesli bars. Assuming a woman is within a healthy weight range, then 11-15kg is considered a healthy weight gain for pregnancy. Eating too much extra food and putting on excessive weight can be unhealthy for mum and baby.

You Can Tell Your Baby’s Gender by Your Bump Shape

‘Pear shaped it’s a boy, apple it’s a girl’ isn’t true. Women come in all shapes and sizes, and so do their pregnancy bumps. Your bump shape depends more on other factors such as the baby’s size and position, amount of amniotic fluid around the baby, whether the baby’s head has ‘engaged’ (dropped lower into the pelvis as it gets ready for birth) or the state of your stomach muscles. If you really want to know the sex of your baby before it arrives, then the 20-week scan is your best bet.

You Can’t Travel by Air During Pregnancy

While flying during pregnancy is safe, most airlines have restrictions about flying late in pregnancy, and many travel-insurance companies also won’t insure pregnant women to fly after a certain time either. This is mainly out of concern that you might go into labour on the flight.

Women need to check with their obstetrician or midwife, who will be able to give a written assessment on whether flying is okay, based on the due date and the health of the woman’s pregnancy, which the airline and insurer can take into account. Pregnancy and flying are both risk factors for Deep Vein Thrombosis and this needs to be considered along with any co-existing medical or obstetric complications and the woman’s individual risk of pre-term delivery.

You Shouldn’t Pat Your Cat During Pregnancy

Patting your cat, or anyone else’s, during pregnancy is fine. You shouldn’t, however, change the kitty litter because of the risk of contracting an infection called toxoplasmosis from the cat’s faeces. Normally, symptoms are mild, but toxoplasmosis in pregnancy can cause birth defects. This also means it’s best to wear gloves while working in the garden if your cat is the outdoors type.

You Can’t Take Baths During Pregnancy

In general, baths are fine during pregnancy, however it is recommended you don’t overheat and raise your core temperature. For this reason very hot baths aren’t advised and neither are saunas and spas.

You Can’t Eat Ice-cream During Pregnancy

Ice-cream is fine during pregnancy, however soft-serve ice-cream (the kind served by fast-food restaurants and mobile ice-cream vans) isn’t recommended because of the risk of a bacterial infection called listeria. If listeria is picked up during pregnancy it can cause complications. This bacteria is also the reason pregnant women are advised to avoid uncooked deli meats and fish, soft cheeses and some pre-prepared salads.

You need to avoid exercise during pregnancy.

In the past exercising during pregnancy was considered taboo, however healthy pregnant women are now encouraged to maintain a modified fitness program. Benefits include increased energy and improved mood, and by keeping fit and active you can help prepare your body for the demands of labour and caring for a newborn baby. Discuss your exercise routine with your doctor or prenatal caregivers to ensure it is appropriate.

You can’t dye your hair during pregnancy.

Dyeing hair is fine during pregnancy. Perms and chemical straightening are also okay, since the chemicals are confined to the scalp, and don’t cross the placenta to the baby. But be sure to use gloves and keep the room in which you are dyeing your hair well ventilated.

You can’t have sexual intercourse during pregnancy.

Unless you’ve been advised otherwise by your antenatal team, intercourse is okay during pregnancy at basically any stage, as long as you and your partner feel comfortable. Baby is safe within its amniotic sac and the surrounding fluid that cushions baby and prevents infection. Related to this is the idea that women will be insatiable during pregnancy. While it might be true for some women that pregnancy hormones increase libido, there will be other women for whom morning sickness, exhaustion or changing body shape are a total turn-off. If this is you, don’t panic – it’s quite normal for women and men to go off intercourse during pregnancy.

You can’t put your arms or hands over your head during pregnancy.

Goodness knows where this one came from. However, if women avoid telling their partners this is false, it could mean avoiding hanging out the washing for nine months.

Dr Manisha Fernando and Dr Katrina Reid are GP mothers who write about prenatal and pregnancy health.

Note: This article provides general health information and in no way constitutes medical advice. Ideas and information expressed may not be suitable for everyone. Readers wishing to obtain medical advice should contact their own doctor.

Words by Dr Manisha Fernando and Dr Katrina Reid