Six Pregnancy Myths Debunked

While it’s easy to laugh at old wives’ tales around pregnancy—like the one about heartburn indicating your baby will be born with a full head of hair—some pregnancy myths persist. Here are six myths and the truth about each.

MYTH 1: You’re eating for two.
Sure, technically your meals are supporting two people, but not two adults—which means that two cheeseburgers or double portions of dessert should be off the menu. For your baby’s growth and your health, you need—on average—about 300 extra (and preferably nutritionally sound) calories per day, which you can get with a yogurt and a turkey sandwich.

MYTH 2: A flu shot is unnecessary and possibly dangerous.
The opposite is true. Experts advise all pregnant women to get a flu shot. The shot itself is safe and coming down with the flu is particularly dangerous when you’re pregnant.

MYTH 3: Avoid fish because it has mercury.
Not all fish contain mercury. More importantly, fish is a great source of lean protein and nutrients like omega 3 fatty acids, which can benefit fetal growth and development. In fact, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) now recommends that pregnant women eat per week eight to 12 ounces of fish that are lower in mercury (such as shrimp, pollock, cod, tilapia and salmon). To avoid mercury found in some varieties, don’t eat mackerel, swordfish, tilefish or shark and limit your consumption of albacore tuna to no more than six ounces per week.

MYTH 4: Sex can “hurt” the baby.
Unless there’s a medical reason your doctor says you can't have intercourse, sex is not at all harmful to your baby, who is quite safe in his or her amniotic sac.

MYTH 5: Cats are dangerous for pregnant women.
It’s true that there’s a risk of getting toxoplasmosis, a bacterial infection that’s dangerous for your baby, from cleaning a cat’s litter box, but it’s small. If you can get someone else to do that job for you, great—but all you need to do to keep safe is wear gloves and wash your hands after handling pets.

MYTH 6: It’s dangerous to fly late in pregnancy.
It’s no more unsafe to fly throughout your pregnancy than it is for the general public, so don’t miss that family reunion or business trip unless you don’t feel up to the rigors of travel. Be aware, though, that many airlines don’t let pregnant women fly after 36 weeks or so—because they may be concerned that you could go into labor at 35,000 feet. Talk to your doctor about the travel guidelines he or she recommends.

The Latest Thinking...

What we know about pregnancy and childbirth is constantly changing, thanks to some amazing breakthroughs in obstetrics. Here are some of the latest advances:*

Delayed Cord Clamping

A recent study found that not clamping and cutting the umbilical cord immediately—but waiting even a few minutes—could be good for your baby. Why? Allowing your newborn to get more of your iron-rich blood may help avoid possible iron deficiency.

3D Printing

Sometimes, prenatal imaging (such as ultrasounds) show abnormalities and potential problems that can be prepared for. The latest advance: building a 3D-printed model of a fetal abnormality so doctors can even more accurately predict what might go wrong—and how to avoid it.

Cell-free DNA Screening (cfDNA)

This new early pregnancy screening may be an easier, earlier and noninvasive means of detecting possible chromosomal abnormalities. CfDNA is a blood test that detects fragments of the baby’s DNA in the mother’s blood.

*Certain tests or procedures may not be available at your hospital.

Medline Plus
Centers for Disease Control
Food and Drug Administration
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecology
American Pregnancy Association
National Institutes of Health

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