Debunking Pregnancy Myths
Pregnancy myths are well meaning but often wrong. Whether passed from generation to generation or through pop culture, it can be hard to separate myth from reality. Obstetrician-gynecologist Atena Asiaii, MD, with LVPG Obstetrics and Gynecology, shares current evidence-based information that helps debunk 10 common pregnancy myths.
Myth: Caffeine is off-limits
Reality: A small amount of caffeine (up to 200mg per day) is considered safe for most women during pregnancy. That’s equivalent to two servings of espresso or one double shot latte daily. Your doctor may even prescribe caffeine to alleviate headache symptoms during pregnancy. If you experience headaches that don’t go away, tell your doctor. It may be a sign of a serious condition like preeclampsia.
Myth: Exercise is dangerous
Reality: Unless you have a condition that requires you to restrict physical activity, exercise is healthy for moms and their unborn babies. Exercise also helps with common symptoms like constipation and is a great stress reliever during pregnancy.
“Woman can definitely exercise during pregnancy,” says Asiaii. “You shouldn’t pick up a completely new exercise regimen or participate in contact sports, but it’s generally OK to continue your current routine like running, cycling or light-to-moderate weight lifting.”
Myth: Say no to intimacy
Reality: Intercourse is safe and healthy for most women throughout pregnancy. If you experience bleeding after intercourse, call your doctor right away. Bleeding can be life-threatening for you and your baby, especially if it is related to certain placental disorders.
Myth: Avoid airplane travel while pregnant
Reality: Many airlines won’t allow women to fly after 36 weeks due to concerns their water could break or they may go into labor. From a medical standpoint, you can fly at any time during pregnancy. Just remember to do ankle exercises throughout your flight or take frequent walks in the aisle to reduce the chance of developing deep vein thrombosis, since the risk of developing blood clots is higher during pregnancy and in the immediate postpartum period.
Myth: You can’t have a cat while pregnant
Reality: Don’t look for a new home for your feline friend just yet. Instead, recruit your partner, friends or family members to take on the litter box chores during pregnancy.
“Some cats carry a parasite called Toxoplasma gondii that can be shed in feces and cause miscarriage, hydrocephalus and intra-cranial calcification,” Asiaii says.
Myth: Bye-bye hair dye
Reality: Don’t say goodbye to your beauty routine just yet. While there is a theoretical risk you can absorb chemicals through the scalp, studies are inconclusive. Instead, try natural hair dye during your first trimester when risk of miscarriage is highest.
Myth: Food cravings and aversions happen to everyone
Reality: Not all pregnant women experience food cravings and aversions. Rarely, pregnant women crave chalk, dirt or clay which can be a sign of severe anemia and a condition called pica. A blood test will determine if you need iron supplementation.
Myth: Pain medication isn’t safe
Reality: Tylenol® (acetaminophen) is safe when limited to 4,000 mg in a 24-hour period.
“Don’t take ibuprofen (brand names Motrin® and Advil®) or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) unless specifically prescribed by your doctor,” says Asiaii. “Many of these can cause heart defects.”
Myth: You’re eating for two now
Reality: Gaining too much weight during pregnancy can cause problems during labor and lead to obesity. Your doctor will advise how much is safe. Women who enter pregnancy in a healthy weight range need an extra 300 calories a day during the second and third trimesters (the equivalent of one bagel or three tablespoons of peanut butter). Breastfeeding women may add an additional 200 calories a day (500 total).
Myth: Pregnancy is a happy time
Reality: It’s common for women to experience anxiety or depression during pregnancy. In fact, 1 in 7 women are affected by depression during pregnancy or after delivery.
“Talk to your doctor,” Asiaii says. “Many times we can provide support right in our office if you’re experiencing anxiety, depression, intimate partner violence or substance abuse. We’re here for you and don’t judge. Our goal is to keep you and your baby healthy and safe.”