Chinese and Navajo cultures forbid pregnant women from attending a funeral. Many cultures forbid pregnant women from consuming red meat. And other cultures firmly believe that pregnant women should never swear or gossip, as “the baby is listening.”
While some pregnancy customs from around the world seem strange or archaic, they all have one aspect in common: an underlying belief that pregnancy is a sacred time, and that expectant mothers should be vigilant with what they do, say, and consume during that time.
Myths surrounding pregnancy can be traced back to ancient times and vary greatly in different cultures, making it hard for modern-day pregnant women to know what is true and what is simply a long-prevailing myth.
Here are seven myths and misconceptions about pregnancy that expectant moms should be aware of.
Pregnancy Misconception 1: Eating for Two
How many times have you heard a pregnant woman claim that she is “eating for two” in order to justify overeating during pregnancy?
The fact is that, while you are indeed growing a new person during your pregnancy, the calorific needs of the fetus are nowhere near as great as an adult. For a single pregnancy, an additional 300-400 calories per day is all that is required to maintain the new life, with a slightly higher allowance for a multiple pregnancies.
For women with a body mass index (BMI) of less than 30, the expected weight gain during the 40 weeks of pregnancy is 35 pounds. Yet the baby makes up only 6-8 lbs of this, with the rest being the placenta, increased blood volume, amniotic fluid, and uterus enlargement. Much of this will naturally be lost with the birth of the baby, while the rest should disappear during the first six months after the baby’s birth with gentle exercise and a sensible diet.
Women with a BMI greater than 30 will need to speak with their OB-GYN to discuss their weight gain expectations during pregnancy, as it will likely be less than 35 lbs. This BMI calculator will help you determine if you fall in this category.
Pregnancy Misconception 2: Prevent Stretch Marks with Cocoa Butter
It is unclear where the myth about Cocoa butter and stretch marks originated but is it now generally accepted to be a myth. Not only is cocoa butter generally ineffective in preventing stretch marks, it can make women’s skin – which generally becomes more sensitive during pregnancy anyway – experience symptoms of an allergic reaction.
Pregnancy Misconception 3: Some Alcohol Is Acceptable
There’s always going to be a study or a doctor somewhere that will say it is acceptable for a pregnant woman to drink alcohol “occasionally,” – ranging from “a sip” to one or two drinks per week.
And, there are always going to be women who hold on to these minority opinions to justify drinking alcohol during pregnancy. But the fact remains that alcohol is a drug – a serious one at that – and there is a perfectly good reason why children, teenagers, and even young adults under the age of 21 are forbidden by law to consume alcohol.
If alcohol is so unsafe for 20-year-olds that there are laws forbidding it, why would it be safe for a growing fetus to be exposed to it? It makes little sense, and a rational person would have to agree that the risks to the baby’s long-term health are too great to even consider drinking alcohol while pregnant.
Any doctors who suggest that drinking alcohol while pregnant is acceptable should weigh their opinion against the combined opinions of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Surgeon General, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists – all of whom agree that alcohol consumption while pregnant is unsafe.
Pregnancy Misconception 4: Traveling by Plane
Despite the myth, there is no reason why women cannot fly during pregnancy. It’s certainly true that some airlines won’t allow pregnant women to fly during their third trimester, but this is more related to the fear that the woman will go into labor mid-flight and cause a panic or delay, or perhaps even make a mess that will need to be cleaned at the airline’s expense.
If you do travel during pregnancy, check with your doctor beforehand to make sure they don’t have any concerns and see if the airline requires a letter from your doctor. Travel as light as possible so you won’t be burdened with heavy baggage. A new travel hack that will cut the size of your cosmetics bag in half is to pack travel wipes instead.
Pregnancy Misconception 5: Stay Away from Cheese
Cheese fans take heart: the advice that pregnant women shouldn’t eat cheese is little more than a myth: for firmer cheeses, at least. Swiss, Mozzarella, and Cheddar are all perfectly safe for pregnant women.
On the other hand, when it comes to soft cheeses, extra care must be taken. Some soft cheeses like Camembert, Brie, and mold ripened cheese can sometimes be made with unpasteurized milk. While generally safe for most people, unpasteurized milk can contain the listeria bacteria, which can cause listeriosis – an illness with flu-like symptoms that can cause serious problems to a developing fetus.
Before eating any soft cheese, check on the package to ensure it has been made with pasteurized milk.
Pregnancy Misconception 6: No Coffee, Tea, Or Chocolate
Some people avoid caffeine altogether while pregnant, although most professionals agree that caffeine is safe in levels under 200 mg per day. So as long as you stay aware of the caffeine you consume, coffee, tea, and chocolate are fine during pregnancy.
Pregnancy Misconception 7: Coloring Your Hair
For some women, the thought of letting their gray hair shine for nine months of pregnancy is a little too much to bare. Thankfully, there is nothing to suggest that hair dye is unsafe for a developing baby.
The only corollary is that hair dye can cause nausea, so ensure that the room is well-ventilated before starting the task. Other than that, feel free to treat your hair as you normally would.
Over to You
Which of these myths and misconceptions were you previously convinced were true? Are there any other long-held misconceptions about pregnancy that we’ve missed? Let us know in the comments below, and don’t forget to share!