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10 pregnancy myths: fact or fiction?

An OB/GYN sorts out the wives' tales from the truth.

Article Author: Beth Stambaugh

Article Date:

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Does morning sickness mean you are having a girl? Do your feet grow when you’re pregnant? Does your sense of smell get better? As an OB/GYN, I get lots of questions from my patients about pregnancy myths. Here are some common myths dispelled:

How you carry determines the sex of the baby.
Answer: Fiction
Some patients think carrying high means you're having a girl and carrying low means it’s a boy. I have also heard it the other way around. The truth is there is no correlation between how you carry and whether pink or blue is in your future. Your OB can usually determine the sex of your baby between 16 and 20 weeks with an ultrasound.

If you have heartburn during pregnancy, your baby will be born with lots of hair.
Answer: Fact
It may be surprising, but a recent Johns Hopkins study actually did find a correlation between heartburn and a full head of hair. This is likely because heartburn during pregnancy is due to estrogen that causes the esophagus to relax. It’s thought that the higher levels of estrogen cause the baby to be born with more hair than usual.  

Farewell to feta?
Answer: Fiction
The rumor is that you can’t eat soft cheeses, which isn’t the case. You need to steer clear of unpasteurized cheeses or any type of unpasteurized dairy products because they may carry disease-causing organisms. Almost all cheese sold in the U.S. – including soft cheese – is made with pasteurized milk and is considered safe to eat.

It’s OK to eat for two.
Answer: Fiction
The Centers for Disease Control says that nearly half of all American women gain more weight than they should during pregnancy. A normal-weight woman should gain between 25 and 30 pounds. If you eat a well-balanced diet, your baby will get the nutrients needed. I recommend taking a daily pre-natal vitamin as well. 

Coloring your hair is a no-go.
Answer: Fiction
Good news. You don’t need to deal with roots nor gray hair during pregnancy. Your body absorbs very little hair dye, so there is not a risk associated with keeping up with the color.

Steer clear of the cat litter box.
Answer: Fact
Apologies to your partner, but it’s true. Cat feces can expose you to toxoplasmosis, a parasitic disease. While not dangerous for most people, the condition can be passed along to the unborn child, which can cause birth defects and sometimes death.

A cup of Joe is a cup of no.
Answer: Fiction
You can have up to 200 milligrams of caffeine a day. A typical cup of brewed coffee has about 95 milligrams. Be sure to account for other caffeine culprits, such as chocolate, soda and tea.

An occasional glass of wine or beer is OK.
Answer: Fiction
Because there is no way to know how much alcohol is safe during pregnancy, most OB/GYNs, including me, recommend avoiding it completely. Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, and a range of disabilities.

Don’t get vaccines when pregnant.
Answer: Fiction
Two vaccines you need during pregnancy are the flu shot and a tetanus booster. When you’re pregnant, there’s a higher risk of getting the flu, and it can be more serious.  A tetanus booster is important because it protects the baby from whooping cough. Both shots are safe during any stage of pregnancy.

Pregnancy can cause your feet to grow.
Answer: Fact
Water weight and extra fluid can cause your feet to swell by up to one size larger and can remain that way post-pregnancy. Small price to pay for a precious new life!

Laura Peter, DO, is an obstetrician and gynecologist with North Florida OBGYN. She delivers at Baptist Beaches, where the Labor & Delivery Center provides spa-like amenities and comfy private rooms for bonding with newborns. If you are currently pregnant, you can register for a free maternity tour at any of our Baptist Health hospitals. 

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