Expecting? 7 Pregnancy Myths Exposed
Expecting? 7 Pregnancy Myths Exposed
Pregnancy myths; you've heard them all. Are they really just old wives' tales? Learn what's true and what's not as we expose 7 common myths.
1. You can tell your baby's gender by the way you are carrying, or by the fetal heartbeat.
Myth. Other than ultrasound and amniocentesis (or chorionic villi sampling), there is no way to determine the gender of the baby you are carrying. Babies are carried differently based on their presentation (breech, vertex, transverse), their position (anterior, posterior), their gestational age and weight, maternal weight and stature and the mother’s parity (whether or not this is her first or eighth baby). Fetal heartbeat is really no help either. Heart tones may be heard as early as eight to ten weeks using Doppler technology. Until about 20 weeks, it is not unusual to have a fetal heartbeat in the 150 to 160 range. As the baby’s heart develops and the neurological system matures, the count may fall to between 130 to 140. The normal range is 120 to 160. Some say that a fast heart rate is a girl, based on the fact that women’s heart rates are faster than men’s. But if this were the case for an unborn baby, we would all start out as girls and turn into boys!
2. Sleeping on your back can hurt the baby.
Myth. Imagine awakening to find yourself on your back and believing that you have caused some harm to your unborn baby. Many women believe that blood flow will be reduced through the placenta if they lie on their backs. The origin of this myth can be found in some valid research originally performed in the 1960s and 1970s, which demonstrated that blood flow can be compromised when a mother is forced to labor lying flat on her back. Compression of the vena cava, a major vessel underlying the uterus, may occur in this position when the mother is in labor. This is why women are encouraged to be on their sides, sitting up or walking when they are in labor. Contractions themselves reduce blood flow to the baby for a certain portion of the peak of the contraction. A healthy term baby can tolerate this stress without difficulty. Laboring on one's back may cause fetal compromise when the baby is already stressed, overdue or preterm, or exposed to infection or a very long labor. As far as the possibility of compromising blood flow by sleeping on one's back, the mother-to-be in this situation would generally be experiencing inadequate oxygen tensions, and this would be considered a high-risk pregnancy. And, if blood flow was indeed compromised, the mother would feel dizzy and very uncomfortable and she would shift to her side naturally. This again would be highly unusual. If the pregnancy is high risk and hypertension, maternal kidney malfunction, severe water retention or fetal compromise is suspected, resting on the left side is often recommended, but, during a normal pregnancy, a woman may assume any position which she finds comfortable.
3. You can tangle the umbilical cord by raising your arms above your head.
Myth. About 20 to 25 percent of all babies are born with the cord around the neck, and many are born with cords around legs. Some cords are even tied into knots. There is nothing that a mother can do to cause this. Entanglements are caused by fetal activity during early gestation. Long umbilical cords, defined as longer than about 100 cm (most cords are 32 to 80 cm long), seem to contribute to entanglements. Excessively long cords are actually caused by excessive fetal movement. In the case of this myth, there may have been some benefit for a pregnant mother. If pregnant women were advised not to lift their arms above their bodies, they may have been given less strenuous jobs. This could have resulted in a more rested mom, and possibly a healthier baby.
4. Having sex during pregnancy can hurt the baby.
Myth. While there are some valid medical reasons to avoid sexual activity during pregnancy, in most cases sex is not harmful to the baby and can be very enjoyable for the woman, who may now be noticing enhanced ability to orgasm due to an increase in blood flow to the pelvic floor.
5. You lose a tooth for every baby.
Myth. Today, with the availability of supplements and fortified foods, no woman should lose a tooth for every baby! Preconception nutrition is critical for preserving maternal health. It is during the critical pre-adolescent and adolescent years that women build stores of iron and calcium that prepare them for childbearing. If a woman’s diet is deficient in these key minerals, the demands of the growing baby often take precedence. Calcium may be lost from the maternal bones and teeth. Women should take in 1500 mg of calcium each day, either from food sources or supplement. Teeth can be lost if stores are deficient or depleted due to malnutrition or close interconceptional periods.
6. Don't begin any exercise that you are not already doing prior to pregnancy.
Myth. Like most myths, this one has some basis in fact. It is meant to protect the newly pregnant woman from injury. Pregnancy does more to a woman's physiology than change her center of gravity. From the earliest days, hormones are adapting the ligaments and muscles to become more flexible and to expand. This makes them a bit more prone to injury. It's important to start a pregnancy exercise program carefully and seek the advice of your care provider. Pregnancy and labor represent some of the most difficult and rewarding work a woman will ever do. It makes sense to prepare oneself physically. If you haven't been participating in a regular program of exercise, walking is a good place to start. Begin with a five-minute warmup with slow gradual stretching of all muscles. Find a nice path and some walking buddies or some good music and walk at a brisk pace for 30 to 40 minutes every day. Finish with five minutes of a slower pace or stretching, which should help you "cool down." Or, consider joining a prenatal exercise or yoga class and build it into a support group and even future playgroup. So ignore the myth about not starting a program and begin working out when you are planning a pregnancy or even if pregnancy is already advanced. Very few women should not exercise in pregnancy, but always consult your care provider prior to starting any regimen.
7. Giving birth: It's better to cut than tear.
Myth. This myth refers to the use of episiotomy at the time of birth. The term "tearing" conjures up images that most women would rather not consider. Actually, tears often are small and do not extend into the muscle. When an episiotomy is cut, several layers of tissue and muscle are cut. Tears also tend to heal more comfortably than episiotomies. This may be because the skin has separated down anatomical lines and the tissue has not been crushed, as it is when a scissors is used. To prevent lacerations, it is important to listen to the midwife or doctor carefully and to give small controlled pushes. Occasionally, the mother may be asked to push between contractions so the force of the contraction does not cause her to push with such force. If the baby shows signs of distress, or if the midwife or doctor believes that a tear into the deep muscle or into the rectum is inevitable, an episiotomy will generally be cut. But research has demonstrated that the highest incidence of rectal sphincter and rectal lacerations occurs when an episiotomy has been cut. Many variables go into the decision whether or not to cut an episiotomy and how to support the perineum at the time of birth. The best advice is to choose a care provider or a type of care provider who will work with you, listen to you, and minimize the use of routine procedures in their practice.