Old Wives' Tales About Pregnancy

Researching pregnancy myths online

How many of those pregnancy old wives tales are true? Pregnancy's a pretty mystical experience all on its own, so it's not surprising that legends have grown up around it.

Superstitions Set to Rest

When you're pregnant, people have all sorts of warnings and advice for you. If you listened to all the pregnancy old wives tales you've been told, you'd probably sit and worry the whole nine months! Here are some myths about pregnancy that you probably don't need to worry about.

Don't Take a Bath When You're Pregnant

Your grandmother, your mom, or an older friend might have told you "No baths when you're pregnant." The idea seems to be that the water could wash germs up through your vagina and into your uterus. Actually, doctors say that's a myth. It's ok to soak in the tub, as long as your pregnancy is normal and the amniotic sac surrounding the baby is intact. Check with your doctor if you're having a problem pregnancy. Even if everything's normal, do avoid very hot water (over 100 degrees Fahrenheit) and steam baths: they can be bad for both you and the baby.

Stop Having Sex

With a normal pregnancy, you can still enjoy sexual intercourse right up until your water breaks. You'll need to use common sense: for example, don't let your partner put too much weight on your belly and save any rough play until after the baby is born. But otherwise, if you want it (and your doctor has said it's safe), you can go for it!

Do remember that your baby is at risk of getting any STD you might catch, so if you're not in a monogamous relationship be extra careful about using condoms and knowing your partner's history. Some doctors recommend avoiding sex in the last few weeks, because semen can trigger labor; other doctors actually suggest trying intercourse if it looks like the baby will be overdue!

Stop Eating Spicy Food

People say spicy foods can cause premature labor. Think about it: do women from cultures that adore hot, spicy foods switch to a bland diet when they get pregnant? Nope, it's just another one of those pregnancy old wives tales. They still enjoy their favorite dishes and you can, too. You may find that spicy foods trigger heartburn or indigestion, though, in which case you'll want to hold off until after the pregnancy.

Predictions and Premonitions

Some pregnancy old wives tales can be a lot of fun, like the ones that "predict" the sex or appearance of the baby. One of them may even be true!

Use Your Wedding Ring to Predict the Baby's Sex

If you'd like to try a bit of fortune-telling, try this ancient trick. Suspend your wedding ring on a chain and dangle it over your pregnant belly. Hold perfectly still and concentrate. Ask the ring to show you the sex of the baby. Slowly, the ring should start to swing. If it moves in circles, you're having a boy. If it moves from side to side, it's a girl. Of course, there's absolutely no proof that this works at all, but it can be fun to imagine that it might.

Having Lots of Heartburn Means the Baby Will Have Lots of Hair

Heartburn is extremely common during pregnancy. For years, women have believed that frequent heartburn meant that the baby would be born with a full head of hair. And for years, doctors have told their patients that this was just a pregnancy old wives tale.

Then, in 2006, Kathleen Costigan, RN, and some colleagues decided to find out if it was true. They studied 64 pregnant women, carefully keeping track of how severe their heartburn symptoms were. Sure enough, women with moderate to severe heartburn were more likely to have babies with full heads of hair! This is just one small study, so there's no way to know for sure if the rule applies to everyone. But this "myth" just might be true.

Pregnancy Old Wives Tales That Aren't

Some things you'll hear about pregnancy, such as foods to avoid should be taken very seriously. Here are some of the warnings you really ought to follow.

Take Folic Acid Before You Get Pregnant

Folic acid is important for the baby's neurological development. Starting a folic acid supplement a few months before you conceive can cut the risk of birth defects like spina bifida.

Avoid Soft Cheese

Soft cheeses like brie can contain high levels of a bacteria called Listeria. This bacteria can be dangerous for your baby. Blue cheese and feta can be risky, too.

Stay Away from Sushi

The raw fish in sushi can contain bacteria and parasites. Although the British medical service says freezing the fish makes it safe, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends avoiding sushi altogether.

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Old Wives' Tales About Pregnancy