Pregnancy: Separating myth from reality

Pregnancy can be an extremely overwhelming time for a woman, particularly if she is carrying her first child. Although there is an overwhelming amount of literature on pregnancy, many women often succumb to the common myths that they are exposed to by friends and family members. While these individuals may be well intentioned in their “advice” it is important that pregnant women are able to separate myth from fact when it comes to their bodies and their babies. So, here are some of the most common myths about pregnant women.

Morning sickness

One of the most common myths about pregnancy is that all women are susceptible to morning sickness. Many individuals will frequently look out for morning sickness as an early warning sign for pregnancy. However, it is important to keep in mind that not all pregnant women will suffer from morning sickness. Morning sickness is typically the result of an increase in the levels of estrogen in a woman’s body. Because each woman is unique, and different bodies produce different amounts of this hormone, not all women will experience morning sickness.

Cravings

Another common myth is that pregnant women will generally have a number of food cravings and that often these cravings are for “odd” combinations of food. Not all women experience food cravings during their pregnancies, but women who do should be aware that the desire for certain foods is simply the body’s way of signaling a deficiency. For example, a woman may crave red meat if she is experiencing an iron deficiency. Similarly, women who crave salty foods may have lower levels of sodium. Indulging in these foods allows women to rectify the deficiency and ensure that their bodies are balanced once again. When it comes to pregnant women’s cravings for junk food, it may simply be that the sugar found in certain foods (like chocolate or pizza) produce serotonin, a neurotransmitter that causes individuals to good, happy, and an overall sense of well-being.

The “no fish” Rule

Pregnant women are often advised not to consume any fish during their pregnancies. Although there is a slight risk when consuming fish that have high levels of mercury, it is not dangerous for women to eat fresh fish that are known to have lower levels. In fact, consuming fish throughout pregnancy could actually be beneficial for the baby. Fish contains fish oil, which has a number of extremely advantageous nutrients, including Omega 3 fats. Omega 3 fats can assist a fetus’ development, particularly within the brain, and potentially increasing the baby’s IQ. Some research has also suggested that Omega 3 fats can help a pregnant woman prevent infection, high blood pressure, premature contractions, and premature labor. The notion that women should avoid fish during pregnancy is ridiculous, particularly when women of other cultures and other time periods were never concerned with the consumption of fish during pregnancy. Japanese women do not stop eating sushi when they pregnant in the same way that medieval women likely did not stop eating fish when/if it was available, even if they were pregnant.

Weight gain

With so many restrictions on diet for pregnant women, one would imagine that individuals would stop promoting the myth that pregnant women must gain a certain amount of weight in order to be considered “healthy.” Most pregnant women visit their doctors regularly and these physicians are likely to make changes in their patients’ diets if and when a problem arises. However, there is no set amount of weight that a woman should gain throughout her pregnancy. The notion that pregnant women “must eat for two” is also ridiculous. Pregnant women only need to be sure that are full, satisfied, and consuming adequate amounts of minerals and vitamins in their diets. Because all women are different and each individual woman has a unique body, some women will gain a considerable amount of weight throughout their pregnancies, while others will not gain more than 25 pounds.

Baths

There are many old wives’ tales that suggest that pregnant women should not take baths. Pregnant women can bathe and go swimming as long as the water temperature is moderate to warm, rather than scalding hot. In fact, warm baths can be extremely beneficial to pregnant women, easing discomfort due to swelling in their limbs and preventing premature contractions. For these reasons, swimming can also be a great, low-impact exercise for women throughout their pregnancies. Furthermore, baths can be as relaxing for pregnant women as they can be for the rest of the population. If a pregnant woman wants to light some candles and soak in a warm bath, she should!

Hair

Many individuals will advise pregnant women not to dye their hair during their pregnancies. Although it is true that pregnant women should avoid chemicals, there are some natural hair dyes that do not contain harmful substances and can be used by pregnant women. After all, Hollywood actresses do not stop going to the salon throughout their pregnancies, so neither should you! Just be sure that the dye you are using is free of chemicals and you should be fine. Pregnant women are entitled to a little beautification, rest, and relaxation!

Baby’s sex

Most of us have heard the timeless tales of how to tell what sex a pregnant woman’s unborn child will be. Most commonly, anxious friends and family members will attempt to discern a fetus’ sex by analyzing the mother’s pregnant belly. Some wives’ tales claim that women who carry their weight lower will have boys while women who carry their bellies higher up will have girls. The reality is that how a woman carries her weight throughout a pregnancy has absolutely no correlation to the sex of her baby. So, unless you get a sonogram that can clearly make out a little penis, knowing the sex of your baby with 100 percent accuracy will have to wait until his or her birth date.

Although there are undoubtedly countless other myths concerning pregnant women and pregnancy, these are undeniably some of the most common fictions that are heard constantly, particularly by pregnant women, throughout their pregnancies. Regardless of how well intentioned your friends and family may be, make sure that YOU know the difference between fact and fiction when it comes to your pregnancy so that you won’t drive yourself crazy hoping that you aren’t doing something “wrong” when, in fact, you aren’t.