Pregnancy is an amazing process. However, as a first time mom-to-be, I can testify that pregnancy can also be a nerve-wracking experience. Thanks to the wonders of the Internet, there is almost too much information available for first-time mothers. Although much of that information is educational and factual, some of it is pure myth.
While I still have much to learn, here are seven common pregnancy myths on which I have happily been corrected:
Myth #1: You’re Eating for Two
Junior may multiply your food bill once he or she starts on solids, but there’s no need for your grocery bill to soar during pregnancy. In fact, you only need to consume about 300 extra calories a day during pregnancy to promote healthy weight gain.
What’s more, truly “eating for two” is unhealthy for both you and baby. If mom is starting at a healthy weight, she only needs to gain between 25 to 35 pounds. When mom packs on extra pounds, baby will too; this can lead to complications at birth and put baby at risk for diabetes and obesity later in life.
Myth #2: You Can’t Eat Fish
I nearly cried when a well-intentioned coworker told me I’d have to give sushi up for nine months. Thankfully, she was mostly wrong. Many fish– like tuna and salmon–are rich in omega 3 fatty acids, which are incredibly important for baby’s development. It’s actually recommended for moms-to-be to take in a few helpings of “good” fish a week.
However, pregnant women should steer clear of fish that are high in mercury, like swordfish, shark and king mackerel. If you’re still concerned, ask your doctor for a list of foods to avoid.
Myth #3: You Can’t Exercise
My OB’s response to this commonly held belief? “No exercise is just a myth, an excuse lazy women use to avoid doing anything during pregnancy.”
While swimming, running, walking, and similar activities are fine, she recommended avoiding high fall risk activities like parkour or horseback riding. Due to loosening ligaments and a shifting center of gravity, pregnant women merely need to use common sense to make sure they don’t put themselves or baby at risk.
Myth #4: You Can’t Have Sex Until the Baby Is Born
Baby is well protected by the mucus plug, amniotic sac and the uterus itself. STI’s can still be transmitted during sex, but there’s no other need to worry about having intercourse or enjoying an orgasm, provided your pregnancy is healthy and low risk.
If you are experiencing symptoms like vaginal bleeding or are at risk for rupture of membranes (ROM), your doctor may advise you to abstain for a while. If you do experience any unusual symptoms or feel you are at risk for ROM, talk to your doctor about testing options to ensure your health and your baby’s health are well cared for.
Myth #5: You Can’t Have a Natural Birth After a C-Section
VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) may come with higher risks, but it’s no longer universally advised against. Every woman is different, and therefore so is every pregnancy, C-section and delivery. Many women who require a cesarean for their first child are able to successfully and safely complete a VBAC for subsequent pregnancies. When considering a VBAC, rely on communication with your doctor, not well-intentioned water cooler stories.
Myth #6: You Should Not Get a Flu Shot
As my OB recently informed me, this myth is not only false, it’s dangerous! Your immune system is lowered when you are pregnant, putting you at higher risk for the flu and for more severe symptoms should you catch it. Furthermore, baby is best protected against the flu when his or her primary caregivers have received the shot. The only warning for pregnant women or new moms is to get the flu shot, not the nasal spray which contains a live form of the virus.
Myth #7: Your Water Will Break to Signal the Start of Labor
Hollywood would have us believe every labor starts with the woman’s water dramatically breaking. However, you shouldn’t bank on your water breaking as confirmation it’s time to go to the hospital or birth center. Why? Because only 12% of women experience water breaking at the start of labor. In fact, in many cases, the amniotic sac does not break until well into labor, once mom-to-be is already at (or should be at) the hospital. Make sure you’re educated on other sure-fire signs of labor rather than relying on your water breaking.
There are countless other myths circulating. Some are harmless, but some are stressful and potentially harmful. It may be a bit ironic to state, but if you have any questions, go to your physician instead of a search engine!