Myth #1: You should eat for two.
Please. Don’t. Picture how it plays out if you do: A baby needs about 100 cal/day first trimester, 200/day in the second, and 300/day in the third. That’s 1, 2, and 3 tablespoons of peanut butter per day, respectively. Say a person needs 2,000 calories per day and you ate for 1.5, that’d be an excess of 1,000 calories per day. Just that much alone and you could gain 50 to 60 or more pounds more than you really need to. If you eat for two after you deliver your sweet parasite baby, your nutrient giving placenta and all that amniotic fluid, you’ll eventually be about 10 to 15 lighter lighter, but everything else will be yours to have and to hold. And it will be freaking hard to lose because you now have a baby taking up your time. Don’t eat for two. Calculate your BMI. If normal, gain 25 to 35 pounds, if overweight, 15 to 25 pounds, if obese, 11 to 20 pounds.
Myth # 2: Sex and sex toys will harm your baby.
If you feel like sex, go for it. You can’t harm that baby. It can’t be poked or vibrated in a way that’s ever problematic. No offense to any erections out there, but they can’t hold a candle to the uterus and it’s rad suspension system. Seriously, the uterus and amniotic fluid give cushion to your baby akin to the posh suspension of a trophy truck.
Myth #3 (on a related note): Pregnancy makes everyone’s libido ravenous and sex absolutely amazing.
While this may apply to a lucky, small contingent, for many women, it’s hit or miss and filled with lots of goofiness and absurdity. Even when in the mood, your belly can make positions that once were favorites, not so hot. Your breasts may be voluptuous in size, but totally off limits for touching because of unpleasant sensitivity or leaking colostrum. Orgasm may arrive more easily or may take forever, leaving you snoring when your non-pregnant self would be in it to win it.
Myth #4: Straining when constipated will cause labor or push the baby out.
No. Labor is complex, but not caused by straining. Now, if you are in labor and you happen to feel like you have to push to have a bowel movement, that could be a sign that it’s time to push your baby out and in that case, yes, pushing can bring on a baby. But in all other situations, pushing won’t cause your baby to eject. Pregnancy and the iron in prenatal vitamins plot together to constipate young women in the most terrible ways. Prevent this by taking a stool softener (like Colace 100mg 3x/day), eating fiber, fruits, oatmeal, raisins, whole grains, bran, vegetables, prunes, beans, nuts and staying hydrated. Investigate your prenatal vitamin label and get one with a really low amount of iron. Note: if you have a history of cervical insufficiency, this does not apply to you.
Myth # 5: Induced labor ALWAYS hurts more than spontaneous labor.
The reason this is a myth is because everyone’s labor experience is unique as they are. While it’s a common mantra to read that all induced labors are horrendous because they’re overly intense, contrived and aggressive, the truth is this: every individual’s experience is unpredictable and uniquely theirs. What is true for one woman is not necessarily true for another, and this is so applicable when it comes to labor. From my point of view, labor hurts. That’s it. Whether it’s spontaneous or induced, it’s painful. Yes, some inductions hurt tons more than spontaneous labor, BUT, some hurt the same or are easier. And there’s really no way to know how it will be for you until you are there.
Myth #6: You can’t lift over 25 pounds.
Dr. Phil, with all due respect, please remove this statement off your website. Professional athletes get pregnant and sure as hell continue weight lifting with over 25 pounds. You can continue and add to what exercise you’ve done pre-pregnancy, with a little bit of common sense: don’t over heat, use proper body mechanics, stay hydrated, don’t push yourself to the point of passing out, only lift what feels comfortable, avoid scuba diving and make sure you don’t do anything that puts you at risk for abdominal trauma. If you choose to maintain a high intensity exercise regimen, tell your doctor so they can monitor your baby a little bit extra.
Myth #7: You can cause labor with eggplant parmesan, pineapple, castor oil, spicy foods, house work, walking or sex.
If labor occurs after any of these, it’s coincidence. Even the most common idea that sex starts labor doesn’t have robust data to support it. Yes, orgasm can cause uterine contractions and semen contains a high concentration of prostaglandins (hormones that rise in labor and that are used to stimulate labor), but in most people, these are not sufficient to start labor if labor wasn’t already looming. Now, in contrast, getting your membranes swept/stripped and nipple stimulation CAN cause labor.
Myth #8: You cannot sleep on your back.
This myth comes from the two facts. First, about 10% of women will experience low blood pressure, nausea and feel like they are going to pass out when they lie flat in pregnancy. It happens because the uterus can compress the biggest blood vessel that brings blood back to our heart, the vena cava. If this is you, you know it and you naturally avoid this position. Second, in labor, sometimes a baby’s heart beat drops in such a way that repositioning a mom on her left or right side improves it. Inappropriate generalization from these make us think if we’ll harm our baby if we lay on our back. No study has definitively linked back sleepers to any bad outcomes. If you are in the 90%, you can sleep however you are comfortable without freaking out when you wake up on your back. (PS: only recently did one study suggest that for profoundly growth restricted babies there may be a benefit to sleeping on one’s side (again if this is you, you’ll know it because your doctor will tell you about it).
Myth #9: If you raise your hands above your head to do things like brush or shampoo your hair, or reach for the top shelf, the umbilical cord will choke your baby.
Gahhhh! No. No, no, no! About 15% of all babies are born with the umbilical cord wrapped around their neck or some part of their body. Usually, it’s loosely draped over their shoulders like a scarf or all wrapped around a leg. Think of the cord as their first mobile. They float around with it and probably bat at it and squeeze it. A nuchal cord (when it’s wrapped around their neck) rarely causes a problem. Most importantly, there is no way to prevent it even if you abstain from brushing your hair all pregnancy.
Myth #10: A high/low heart rate, if you carry the baby high or low, if you show from the back, the gender of your previous child, how a ring on a string swings over your belly and how much nausea you have can give you clues to the baby’s gender.
No. Just no. Like the falsehood of heartburn hinting at a hairy baby, none of these mean anything.
This awesome post was written by Kristi Angevine, MD, FACOG. Kristi is an Ob/Gyn and mom who bikes, blogs and is in private practice in Chattanooga, TN. It’s her mission to make sure her patients go through their pregnancy with as much ease as possible. You can learn more about Kristi her upcoming Straight-Up Pregnancy Primer here.