12 Pregnancy Myths

You’ve heard all the old wives tales or you soon will as your bump develops. Every generation within your family or friendship group will have an opinion on the classic myths, for example, how to tell the gender according to bump profile, whether you can get your hair coloured or the best sleeping position during pregnancy. In The Times, this month, We review the evidence that scuppers 12 myths of pregnancy – we’ve summarised the article below, so now you know what to believe.

1) Don’t dye your hair

It seems hair highlights are safe during pregnancy, as they are not applied to the scalp and so not absorbed through the skin. With other hair dyes there is not a 100 per cent guarantee that no chemicals will be absorbed through the skin, but the amounts are so tiny that the risk is thought to be minimal.

2) Having sex during pregnancy can harm the baby

For most women the message is that sex won’t harm the foetus. There is some truth in the belief that, in the later stages of pregnancy, sex prepares the body for labour as the body produces the hormone oxytocin, which can help your cervix ripen in readiness for labour. A doctor might, therefore, caution against sex in the third trimester for a minority of women who have a history of premature labour, vaginal bleeding or placenta previa, in case it triggers early labour.

3) Morning sickness is a sign that a foetus is healthy

Morning sickness is just another symptom of pregnancy caused by higher levels of hormone combined with low blood sugar, it doesn’t indicated anything about the health of the developing foetus.

4) How you carry your bump can predict gender

Only an ultrasound scan can determine a baby’s gender. Your bump shape depends on your own body shape and muscle tone. With first babies, the muscles and ligaments tend to be tighter so babies are carried higher. The position is also determined by the baby’s presentation (whether it is breech or transverse), and its gestational age and weight.

5) Sleeping on your back can harm the baby

In a normal, healthy pregnancy, experts say that a baby can generally accommodate any sleeping position that the mother adopts to ensure she gets a good night’s sleep. Dr Philip Owen, a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist at North Glasgow University NHS Trust, says that the best resting position when pregnant is to lie on your side with your knees bent, which “makes the heart’s job easier because it stops the weight of the baby applying pressure to your large veins”.

6) Stretch marks are avoidable if you use creams

Creams and oils will sooth dry skin during pregnancy, but stretch marks develop when the elastic tissue underneath the skin changes. As you gain weight in pregnancy, sometimes the skin is not elastic enough to cope with the dramatic change. They are genetic and you may be in the lucky 50% of pregnant women that won’t get them.

7) Don’t take up exercise when you are pregnant

Exercise is not only safe, but beneficial, even for women who have never been active before. Your heart will pump more blood than normal to ensure the foetus is not deprived of oxygen when you work out. You must obviously avoid contact sports, scuba diving or other activities that might cause abdominal distress, but there is no excuse not to start exercising in pregnancy. If you were not very active before, then you should start with non weight-bearing activities, such as brisk walking, swimming or cycling.

8) Don’t fly in the first trimester

Flying is considered safe for pregnant women, but sitting down for long periods can increase the risk of blood clots, so it is particularly important to get up and walk around to avoid deep vein thrombosis. Radiation exposure does increase at high altitudes, but only frequent fliers approach anything near the upper safety limits.

Women who have had a previous history of miscarriage, premature birth, low placenta or bleeding in pregnancy will be advised to avoid it by their doctor.

9) Don’t sit in front of a computer

While tiny amounts of low-frequency electromagnetic radiation are emitted from the back of computers, none comes from the front, so you do not need to limit your time in front of the screen on this account. A bigger risk sitting at the keyboard all day is bad posture and carpal tunnel syndrome, especially as your ligaments become more relaxed during pregnancy.

10) Curry and raspberry leaf tea will induce labour

There is no scientific evidence to support the view that either raspberry leaf tea or curry induce labour, it is all anecdotal. However, stories are not necessarily fiction.

11) Natural birth is better than a Caesarean section

You can’t argue that the recovery after a vaginal birth is quicker and easier than for mothers who have had Caesareans. However, the best way to give birth is the safest way for the baby and mother, whichever route that might be.

12) Breastfeeding helps you to lose weight

Contrary to popular belief, breastfeeding doesn’t necessarily help new mothers to shed weight any faster. Although producing milk uses 200 to 500 calories a day, breastfeeding mothers also produce the hormone prolactin that not only prompts milk production but stimulates appetite. So girls, you know the deal, weight loss is purely dependent on eating less calories than you are using each day.

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