10 Popular Pregnancy Myths Debunked

By:    Published: September 12, 2011

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Nearly every pregnant woman has had to deal with a well meaning relative pushing some kind of pregnancy myth on her. For some, especially first-time mothers, it can be hard to know what advice to take and what to graciously ignore. These are the top ten, most circulated pregnancy myths.

1. Methods for Determining Gender

Many pregnant women spend an anxious 20 weeks waiting to find out if their bundle of joy is a boy or girl. The internet is full of so-called methods for determining the gender of the baby, and there is even a gender test kit available at many drug and discount stores. Unfortunately, none of these methods are accurate. The only way to determine gender is an amniocentesis, which samples the amniotic fluid and examines the genetic markers or an ultrasound. Anything else might be fun, but don't paint the nursery based on the results.

2. Hair Color

For years, women have been hearing that if they were pregnant, they couldn't color their hair. However, there is no evidence, according to the American Pregnancy Association, that hair dye causes harm to an unborn baby. The ethos seems to have come from the risk of the chemicals in the dye being absorbed through the mother's skin and then harming the baby. If a mother is truly concerned, she doesn't have to be for long. Only during the first trimester would there be any risk, so celebrate the arrival of the second trimester with a new colorful 'do.

3. Stretch Mark Prevention

Many a pregnant woman has spent a fortune on every cream and scrub known to mankind to prevent or treat stretch marks. Unfortunately, there is nothing that can be done to prevent them. The reason is they come from inside, not outside the skin. The production of cortisone increases during pregnancy which breaks down elastic fibers in the skin. They can be diminished with several different treatments, but there is no sure-fire way to make them disappear altogether.

4. Raising Arms

Perhaps one of the silliest pregnancy myths out there is that a pregnant woman can't raise her arms or she'll choke her baby with the umbilical cord. There is absolutely no basis in fact for this. In fact, it's unclear how this tale ever started. It would be unrealistic to think that a woman would spend nearly a year with her arms at her sides.

5. Heartburn

Another very common myth is that if a pregnant woman has a lot of heartburn during her pregnancy, her baby will be born with a lot of hair. It's unclear where the myth came from, but heartburn during pregnancy is often caused from the growing baby pushing gastric fluids up the esophagus as he or she moves, which has been relaxed by pregnancy hormones. According to a study at Johns Hopkins University, there does seem to be some evidence of a connection, but it is tenuous at best, given that the study relied on the mother's reports of heartburn, instead of any actual testing. There are still plenty of women who suffered with heartburn who had bald babies, and plenty who didn't who had hairy babies.

6. Acne

Another old wives' tale that still makes the rounds is the myth that if a mother has a lot of acne, she will have a girl because a daughter will steal her mother's beauty. The reality is that acne is often a problem during pregnancy because of the fluctuation in hormones. Most topical remedies are perfectly fine, but pregnant women should steer clear of the prescription Accutane. It can cause a whole host of problems in the fetus. It's probably a good idea to stay away from anything harsh since pregnancy can make skin more sensitive than usual.

7. Eating for Two

Every pregnant woman has been chided by a well-meaning friend or relative that she's eating for two, while being force fed extra dessert. The reality is that pregnant women only need to consume about 300-to-450 calories more per day than they usually would. Any more can lead to unhealthy weight gain and the problem of taking off after the baby is born.

8. Air Travel

Another popular myth is that pregnant women can't travel by air because the pressure change will set off labor and that radiation is unsafe at altitude. The truth is that the cabin pressure isn't sufficient enough to do that and radiation levels aren't high enough to cause problems either. It may cause a slight decrease in oxygen, but this isn't a problem in a healthy pregnancy. If a new mom wants to fly, be sure to book an aisle seat close to the bathroom.

9. Computers and Microwaves

One very popular pregnancy myth making the internet rounds is that computers and microwaves are unsafe to pregnant moms and their babies. There is no evidence that either exposes the baby to excess radiation and microwaves will not result in any sort of problem. Mom should avoid long hours at the keyboard, however, because she can develop carpal tunnel syndrome easily during pregnancy.

10. Tap Water

It is widely reported that tap water is unsafe for pregnant women. The truth is, in most cases, cooking with, bathing with and drinking tap water is perfectly fine. In fact, water in most metropolitan areas goes through rigorous testing to ensure its safety, something bottled water doesn't. If for some reason the tap water in a particular area is deemed unsafe, or Mom doesn't care for it, opt for distilled water. The process provides the purest water possible.

Hopefully, debunking these myths has put many a pregnant mind at ease. If in doubt about the safety of something during pregnancy, the doctor is just a phone call away, and is the best source for advice.

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