13 pregnancy myths debunked!

By Amy Newman

When you’re pregnant, it may feel like everyone is suddenly an expert, giving you advice, suggestions and warnings. It can be difficult to know which “facts” about pregnancy are actually true. Here, experts help set the record straight on 13 common pregnancy myths.

Myth #1: You can’t have a vaginal birth after having a caesarean section.

Whether you’re a first-time mom worried that a caesarean section now means caesarean sections forever, or a veteran mom hoping for a vaginal birth after a caesarean (VBAC), you’ll be relieved to know that VBACs are possible.

“Statistically, it is much safer to have a VBAC than a repeat caesarean,” says Lena Kilic, CDM, owner of Heritage Birth Center in Anchorage. “Especially when you compare it to the risk of a repeat caesarean, the risks of going for a VBAC are low.”

The risk comes from the incision used in the prior C-section, which could increase the chance of uterine rupture, says Allison Gibbs, MD, FACOG-OB/GYN, with Anchorage Women’s Clinic. A classical or vertical incision, often used in premature or breech deliveries, poses an “unacceptably high” risk of rupture, at 10 percent, Gibbs explains. A transverse incision low down on the uterus, however, has only about a one-percent chance of rupture, so is considered an acceptable risk, she adds.

Myth #2: Flying will increase your risk of complications. (Translation: No babymoon for you!)

Don’t scrap plans for a pre-baby trip with your sweetie, Gibbs says. Provided your pregnancy is free of complications, air travel is safe.

The amount of radiation you are exposed to while passing through airport metal detectors or flying at high altitudes is much too low to be harmful to you or your baby, she says. The TSA states that body scanners are also safe for pregnant women. These views are backed up by research evaluated by the FDA, the National Institute for Standards and Technology, and the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory.

If it gives you peace of mind, you can opt out of going through screening technology altogether and requesting a pat down, Gibbs adds.

To avoid any extra stress towards the end of pregnancy, many healthcare providers recommend that their patients not fly too close to their due date. You don’t want to run the risk of going into labor mid-air!

Myth #3: You’re eating for two, so go back for seconds.

“I wish!” Kilic says with a laugh. “That would be so much more fun if it were true!”

The reality is that pregnant women only need an additional 300 calories a day, so ditch the second helpings of everything for the health of yourself and the baby. Overeating during pregnancy increases the risk of developing gestational diabetes, while excessive weight gain increases the risk of pre-term labor or pre-eclampsia, Gibbs says.

Myth #4: You shouldn’t get a flu shot if you’re pregnant.

It is highly recommended that pregnant women get a flu shot, Gibbs says. Contracting influenza while pregnant puts you at an increased risk of becoming seriously ill and requiring hospitalization, she says.

Myth #5: Cocoa butter prevents stretch marks.

Learn to love your stretch marks, because they’re unlikely to go anywhere. According to the Mayo Clinic, there is no strong evidence that lotions, creams or oils prevent stretch marks. Light and laser therapies or microdermabrasion may improve their appearance but are unlikely to eliminate them entirely.

Myth #6: Say so long to seafood.

Don’t rule it out. Seafood can be a good source of zinc, protein and iron that is beneficial for the growth and development of a healthy baby. According to FDA guidelines, pregnant and nursing women may eat up to 12 ounces a week of a variety of seafood low in mercury, such as canned light tuna, salmon, shrimp, catfish, pollock and fish sticks. Consumption of white (albacore) tuna should not exceed six ounces per week. Avoid large predatory type fish, such as shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish, which contain higher levels of mercury that can negatively impact baby’s development.

Myth #7: You can’t drink coffee.

Yes, you can have that morning cup of coffee. If you’re pregnant, limit caffeine to 200 milligrams each day, according to the March of Dimes. That’s about one and a half 8-ounce cups of coffee or one 12-ounce cup of coffee. (If you’re breastfeeding, limit caffeine to no more than two cups of coffee a day.)

Myth #8: You need to suffer through sickness – no Tylenol or other meds allowed.

You don’t need to suffer, Gibbs says. Certain medications, like Tylenol and Robitussin, are considered safe for use during pregnancy, she says. Other medications, like aspirin and ibuprofen, may carry some risk; your OB-GYN can provide you with a list of what’s safe.

Myth #9: Carrying the baby high tells you it’s a girl; low means boy.

This is one old wives’ tale you’ll probably get sick of hearing by the time you reach your due date. Gibbs says there’s no evidence you can tell the gender just by evaluating your belly. How and where you carry is related to your body type, weight gain and other physical factors – the sex of your baby has no impact on any of this.

Myth #10: It’s ok to have one drink.

While there’s debate over alcohol use during pregnancy, Gibbs says, you should put down that glass.

“Nobody knows what the safe limit of alcohol is in pregnancy,” she says. Alcohol can cause birth defects that affect the baby’s facial structure, cognitive abilities, balance and behavior – yet all are completely preventable if you avoid alcohol.

“Why take a risk?” she says.

Myth #11: Dying your hair or getting a manicure is harmful for baby.

Pamper yourself, Gibbs says. When dying your hair or having your mani-pedi day, make sure you’re in a well-ventilated area so you’re not inhaling the fumes, and choose a semi-permanent hair color, which contains fewer chemicals.

Myth #12: Exercise is a no-no.

If you’re already active, it’s reasonable to continue at your current level, Gibbs says. If you weren’t a regular gym-goer, start off with something gentle, like a daily 20-minute walk, she says. Staying active during pregnancy can help you feel better and even help prevent pregnancy complications like gestational diabetes. It may also shorten the duration of your labor and help you drop the baby weight quicker after giving birth.

Any sport or activity that risks a blow to the abdomen should be avoided, she cautions, as it can cause the placenta to tear and bleed.

Myth #13: You must always sleep on your left side.

Don’t force yourself to sleep on your left side all night long if it’s uncomfortable. The reality is that you can sleep in whatever position is comfortable for you; there is no evidence that other positions (such as on your right side or back) will injure your baby. As you and your baby grow, it’s natural that you will lean to one side while you sleep.

If you’re feeling dizzy or short of breath, lying on your left side will relieve pressure on the vena cava, which carries blood from your lower body and back to your heart.

“Left side’s best, right side’s okay,” Gibbs says. If lying on your side puts too much pressure on your hips, use a pillow to keep you somewhere between back and side-lying.