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Pregnancy myths and truths

20 February 2019
From parenting books to friends and family, everywhere you turn there are dos and don’ts around pregnancy and newborns.
Pregnancy myths and truths

But what is fact or fiction?

1. “Spice it up.”

As soon as you’re past your due date, women, young and old, suggest eating spice to bring on labour. Before you dig into high-fat curries, remember all it may do is cause indigestion (a very common pregnancy side effect). There is no evidence to support the claim that spice can trigger contractions.

Spicing it up in the bedroom with sexual intercourse is also debatable. There is no conclusive study to support this line of thought. However, many women swear by it as it triggers the uterus into action and releases oxytocin, which helps with contractions and semen can soften the cervix.

__2. “Breastfeeding your baby at night is like giving it chocolate.” __

Post-delivery advice starts coming in early when you’re expecting, especially around breastfeeding. Many well-wishers will advise that you stop breastfeeding the baby at night at the first sign of a tooth appearing for risk of ruining their teeth. This is said to be truer if you lie down and feed (as you probably would at night) apparently.

However, there has been no valid link established between breastfeeding (at any time of the day) and cavities. Follow proper dental hygiene for your infant if you want to avoid tooth decay.

3. “Heartburn means your baby will have lots of hair.”

“That burn you feel in your chest and stomach is being caused by the masses of hair on your unborn baby’s head!” Read about the causes of heartburn during pregnancy. It could just be linked to diet, activity or change in hormones. Although a small study of 64 women by the US National Centre for Biotechnology Information did find a connection with the amount of baby hair and heartburn – so the jury’s out on this one.

4. “A low and small bump means you’re having a boy.”

Why bother with scans that can reveal the sex of a child when you have something as fool proof as this? Another rendition of this is that if you have a pointed bump, you’re having a girl. We could find no connecting research to prove either. A bump may reveal more about the mum’s fitness and pregnancy history among other things according to experts.

5. “If you cut your hair while pregnant, you will have a bald baby.”

Simply not true. Baby head hair is determined by genetics and ethnicity.

Some will even tell you that your baby could have poor vision if you cut your hair while pregnant. The fact is that when a baby is born, it takes some time for their full visual ability to develop. Your haircut certainly has nothing to do with it.

6. “You can only get morning sickness in the first trimester.”

Only a woman suffering from it knows the dread of going to bed at night knowing she will wake up feeling nauseous and vomiting the next morning. Generally, morning sickness only lasts for the first trimester, but in some cases, it can last till the day you deliver.

Morning sickness is caused by hormonal changes your body experiences as it copes with a growing foetus. And, there is no way of knowing how long your morning sickness will last. In extreme cases, morning sickness is classed as hyperemesis gravidarum - a condition so severe that your body can’t keep fluids or foods down.

7. “Don’t hang out washing. Lifting arms could cause the umbilical cord to tangle.”

Women are often told that raising their arms during pregnancy can cause the umbilical cord to tangle around the baby’s neck resulting in dire circumstances. There doesn’t appear to be truth in this statement. Babies move, even summersault, in the womb all the time. Your raised arms are highly unlikely to affect them.

8. “Pregnancy will change your voice.”

This is actually true. Some women experience a swelling of their vocal cords during pregnancy due to hormonal changes. In most cases, this goes back to normal post-delivery or breastfeeding. Weird, huh?

9. “Breastfeeding = birth control.”

This one is as old as the hills. It is true that breastfeeding can keep a women’s period away for longer, thus making them less fertile. Combined with other factors, the chances of conceiving in the first six months from birth if you’re exclusively breastfeeding are low. But it is far from being a fool proof birth control plan.

10. “It’s okay to have one drink.”

Having a few sips of champagne or completely abstaining from alcohol is a personal choice. There are numerous studies that show that drinking alcohol while pregnant increases the risk of foetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs). The New Zealand Ministry of Health recommendation is to stop drinking alcohol if you are pregnant.

11. “No cheese.”

Rejoice, ladies—you don't have to avoid all cheeses. Some kinds, like cheddar, gouda and swiss are totally fine because they’ve been pasteurised. It's the soft, unpasteurised products like brie, feta and goat cheese that might carry food-borne illnesses. Most cheeses these days are pasteurised - just double check the label to be sure and then enjoy your crackers and cheese.

12. “You’re eating for two.”

You may have some leeway but pregnancy is not a time to pig out. You can give in to some cravings, but you definitely don’t need to eat twice as much because you’re pregnant. According to the Ministry of Health guidelines a pregnant woman requires no extra calories in the first trimester. In the second trimester, you need no more than 1,400 kilojoules per day. This goes up to 1,900 kilojoules in the third trimester.

13. “Say goodbye to seafood.”

Packed with omega three fatty acids and protein, seafood is super healthy for your baby’s development. It’s your choice of seafood that matters - opt for low mercury seafood. Some that are under the scanner by the Ministry of Health are cardinafish, dogfish, Lake Rotomahana trout, lake trout from geothermal regions, school shark, marlin, southern bluefin tuna and swordfish.

Raw fish is to be avoided due to fear of parasites and is classified as a ‘high risk food’. Japanese have a different view on that and encourage pregnant women to eat raw fish as long as it is fresh and low in mercury.

14. “Don’t colour your hair.”

Although some cultures don’t encourage hair colouring during pregnancy, there’s no science to back that it will do you any harm.

Our hair follicles are already dead, so you're dying something that's not living — it's only the root that's alive. So, it's fine to dye your hair. Most products used nowadays are in any case non-toxic.

In some cases the fumes from the dyes can aggravate any nausea you could have. This can be avoided by choosing a well-ventilated salon.

In summary, feel free to keep up those hair appointments ladies.

15. “Ditch the manicures.”

You don’t have to say goodbye to manicures just because you’re going to be a mother. Research is not sufficient on beauty treatments while pregnant. The biggest concern with manicures, and this is true even if you’re not pregnant, is skin infections due to unhygienic practices. Just make sure your chosen salon or nail bar sterilises all tools to avoid any chances of bacterial or viral infections.

16. “Storms can induce labour.”

The weather has no influence on when your baby makes an appearance. Don’t pack you ‘go bag’ just because the skies have turned their A-game on. Get a warm cuppa, settle in on the couch and enjoy the rain.

17. “If your right breast is bigger than the left, you’re having a boy.”

Pregnant or not, is not uncommon for one breast to be larger than the other. There is no research to indicate this implies you’re having a baby boy.

18. “Craving sweets? It’s a girl.”

Before you ditch the boy names and start painting the nursery pink because you crave decadent desserts, there’s no evidence to support a link between sweet cravings and the sex of your baby.

19. “You can’t get a flu jab.”

Scientific evidence shows that flu vaccines are perfectly safe during pregnancy. In fact, the Ministry of Health recommends immunising yourself and your unborn baby against influenza and whooping cough. Plus, pregnant women may be entitled to some free vaccinations.

20. “Biff the gym.”

Exercise isn't prohibited when you're pregnant — in fact, it's recommended. But when it comes to your level of activity, maybe don't aim for your bench press PB just yet. Your focus should be on maintaining your current fitness and doing what your body is usually capable of. If you were a regular exerciser before conceiving, continue to do that.

21. “Don’t see a solar or lunar eclipse.”

An eclipse is considered harmful for pregnant women in some cultures. But there is absolutely no harm the temporary blocking of the sun or moon can do as they go about their celestial ways. The only harm is watching an eclipse without protecting your eyes - and that’s true for everyone, not limited to pregnant women.

Continue reading about the milestones to expect from a new baby, toddler and children.

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Information correct as at February 2019

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