Research in the obstetrics field can put certain pregnancy myths to rest once and for all.
Something about being pregnant seems to draw unsolicited advice and stories. Friends, family, and even total strangers stop to congratulate you and give you their advice on how to best navigate this life-changing event.
While much of the advice comes from a well-intentioned place, not all of it is based on fact, and some of it could even harm your and your child’s health. These common pregnancy myths just will not seem to go away, no matter how much scientific data we throw at them.
Pregnancy Myth #1: Eating for Two
Of all the myths about pregnancy, this is by far one of the most common. On the surface, it seems to make sense. After all, mothers are often told that the baby absorbs whatever they put into their bodies, so it doesn’t take much of a leap to rationalize the idea that the more you eat, the better.
Unfortunately, for those hoping that pregnancy might be a good excuse for that extra piece of cake, the female body only needs 300 additional calories above its normal intake to sustain prenatal growth. Because it is normal—and healthy—for a woman to gain up to 35 pounds throughout the course of pregnancy, it is easy to think that a few extra pounds do not matter.
However, this could not be farther from the truth; weight gain in excess of 50 pounds can lead to greater chances of gestational diabetes, needing a cesarean section, and to higher incidences of obesity in the babies as they mature into adulthood.
Pregnancy Myth #2: It’s Dangerous to Fly While Pregnant
After months of planning, countless visits to your gynecologist, and hours spent trying to think of the perfect name for your baby, you need a nice, relaxing vacation. However, many mothers stop themselves from getting some much-needed rest because they fear exposing their unborn child to radiation from airport body scanners and the pressure high altitudes.
Fortunately, this rests squarely in the “pregnancy myths” category. Flying is perfectly safe for you and your baby. As scary as the effects of radiation may sound, the truth is that you are always being exposed to small amounts of radiation during your everyday daily routine. The amount of radiation you experience at the airport (and in the sky) is a relatively tiny increase.
Remember to always discuss your travel plans with your obstetrician beforehand, as there are exceptions to the rule. If you are late in your third trimester or have experienced a difficult pregnancy, you may be better off planning a stay-cation.
Pregnancy Myth #3: Stress During Pregnancy Is Bad
Sometimes life is stressful. Add pregnancy into the mix, and you may begin to redefine your definition of stress. This can lead many mothers to worry that the stress of their daily life is having a negative impact on their baby—ironically producing even more stress.
Thankfully, a certain amount of stress can be helpful for your baby. Moderate stress can accelerate fetal development, leading to infants with higher levels of cognitive function. Also, two-year-olds whose mothers experienced moderate levels of stress during pregnancy showed higher developmental and motor skills than their non-stressed counterparts. We do not suggest that you purposefully induce extra stress in your life—a trip to the grocery store during rush hour should more than suffice.
Pregnancy Myth #4: Don’t Exercise
Exercise, no matter what your stage in life, is important. Maintaining cardiovascular fitness does not simply make you feel good; it can prevent heart disease, obesity, and help you lead a healthier, happier life.
Despite all these benefits, there is a belief that pregnant women should not exercise. This could not be further from the truth. Exercise is perfectly safe during pregnancy, and activities such as walking or jogging are great ways to remain physically active without being too strenuous for your body. Apart from your personal health, exercise has added benefits for your baby; frequent exercise can lead to babies with slower, stronger heartbeats, as well as lower birth weights.
You should speak to your obstetrician before beginning or changing your exercise routine. In general, about 30 minutes of light to moderate exercise is healthy. Extreme exercise, or over an hour of exercise daily should be discussed with your obstetrician.
Pregnancy Myth #5: Say No to Fish
For many women, being pregnant means giving up a whole host of seafood. Fish (especially sushi) is often heralded as being overly dangerous, full of chemicals like mercury and other toxins that can harm both you and your developing baby.
Now, pregnant fish lovers can rest easy. Not only is fish an excellent source of lean protein, but it contains large amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, and mothers who eat fish regularly have been shown to have children that score higher in verbal, communication, and motor skill tests. If you are still worried about mercury levels, avoid shellfish, which have the highest concentrations.
No two pregnancies are the same, and as a result, it is perfectly normal to have questions about what is best for you and your baby. Should you find yourself trying to decide which pregnancy myths are “fact” and which are “fiction,” ask your obstetrician to put your mind at ease.
If you need an obstetrician in Arkansas, contact The Woman’s Clinic at 501-664-4131 to schedule an appointment.