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7 Pregnancy Myths Exposed

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  • 7 Pregnancy Myths Exposed

    7 Pregnancy Myths Exposed
    by Peg Plumbo, CNM

    Pregnancy myths; you've heard them all. Are they really just old wives' tales? Learn what's true and what's not as we expose seven common myths.

    1. You can tell your baby's gender by the way you are carrying, or by the fetal heartbeat.

    Other than ultrasound and amniocentesis (or chorionic villi sampling), there is no way to determine the gender of the baby you are carrying.

    Babies are carried differently based on their presentation (breech, vertex, transverse), their position (anterior, posterior), their gestational age and weight, maternal weight and stature and the mother's parity (whether or not this is her first or eighth baby).

    Fetal heartbeat is really no help either. Heart tones may be heard as early as eight to ten weeks using Doppler technology. Until about 20 weeks, it is not unusual to have a fetal heartbeat in the 150 to 160 range. As the baby's heart develops and the neurological system matures, the count may fall to between 130 to 140. The normal range is 120 to 160. Some say that a fast heart rate is a girl, based on the fact that women's heart rates are faster than men's. But if this were the case for an unborn baby, we would all start out as girls and turn into boys!

    2. Sleeping on your back can hurt the baby.

    Imagine awakening to find yourself on your back and believing that you have caused some harm to your unborn baby.

    Many women believe that blood flow will be reduced through the placenta if they lie on their backs. The origin of this myth can be found in some valid research originally performed in the 1960s and 1970s, which demonstrated that blood flow can be compromised when a mother is forced to labor lying flat on her back. Compression of the vena cava, a major vessel underlying the uterus, may occur in this position when the mother is in labor. This is why women are encouraged to be on their sides, sitting up or walking when they are in labor. Contractions themselves reduce blood flow to the baby for a certain portion of the peak of the contraction. A healthy term baby can tolerate this stress without difficulty. Laboring on one's back may cause fetal compromise when the baby is already stressed, overdue or preterm, or exposed to infection or a very long labor.

    As far as the possibility of compromising blood flow by sleeping on one's back, the mother-to-be in this situation would generally be experiencing inadequate oxygen tensions, and this would be considered a high-risk pregnancy. And, if blood flow was indeed compromised, the mother would feel dizzy and very uncomfortable and she would shift to her side naturally. This again would be highly unusual.

    If the pregnancy is high risk and hypertension, maternal kidney malfunction, severe water retention or fetal compromise is suspected, resting on the left side is often recommended, but, during a normal pregnancy, a woman may assume any position which she finds comfortable.

    3. You can tangle the umbilical cord by raising your arms above your head.

    About 20 to 25 percent of all babies are born with the cord around the neck, and many are born with cords around legs. Some cords are even tied into knots. There is nothing that a mother can do to cause this. Entanglements are caused by fetal activity during early gestation. Long umbilical cords, defined as longer than about 100 cm (most cords are 32 to 80 cm long), seem to contribute to entanglements. Excessively long cords are actually caused by excessive fetal movement.

    In the case of this myth, there may have been some benefit for a pregnant mother. If pregnant women were advised not to lift their arms above their bodies, they may have been given less strenuous jobs. This could have resulted in a more rested mom, and possibly a healthier baby

    4. Having sex during pregnancy can hurt the baby.

    While there are some valid medical reasons to avoid sexual activity during pregnancy, in most cases sex is not harmful to the baby and can be very enjoyable for the woman, who may now be noticing enhanced ability to orgasm due to an increase in blood flow to the pelvic floor.

    5. You lose a tooth for every baby.

    Today, with the availability of supplements and fortified foods, no woman should lose a tooth for every baby!

    Preconception nutrition is critical for preserving maternal health. It is during the critical pre-adolescent and adolescent years that women build stores of iron and calcium that prepare them for childbearing. If a woman's diet is deficient in these key minerals, the demands of the growing baby often take precedence. Calcium may be lost from the maternal bones and teeth. Women should take in 1500 mg of calcium each day, either from food sources or supplement. Teeth can be lost if stores are deficient or depleted due to malnutrition or close interconceptional periods.

    6. Don't begin any exercise that you are not already doing prior to pregnancy.

    Like most myths, this one has some basis in fact. It is meant to protect the newly pregnant woman from injury. Pregnancy does more to a woman's physiology than change her center of gravity. From the earliest days, hormones are adapting the ligaments and muscles to become more flexible and to expand. This makes them a bit more prone to injury.

    It's important to start a pregnancy exercise program carefully and seek the advice of your care provider. Pregnancy and labor represent some of the most difficult and rewarding work a woman will ever do. It makes sense to prepare oneself physically. If you haven't been participating in a regular program of exercise, walking is a good place to start. Begin with a five-minute warmup with slow gradual stretching of all muscles. Find a nice path and some walking buddies or some good music and walk at a brisk pace for 30 to 40 minutes every day. Finish with five minutes of a slower pace or stretching, which should help you "cool down." Or, consider joining a prenatal exercise or yoga class and build it into a support group and even future playgroup. So ignore the myth about not starting a program and begin working out when you are planning a pregnancy or even if pregnancy is already advanced.

    Very few women should not exercise in pregnancy, but always consult your care provider prior to starting any regimen.

    7. Giving birth: It's better to cut than tear.

    This myth refers to the use of episiotomy at the time of birth. The term "tearing" conjures up images that most women would rather not consider. Actually, tears often are small and do not extend into the muscle. When an episiotomy is cut, several layers of tissue and muscle are cut. Tears also tend to heal more comfortably than episiotomies. This may be because the skin has separated down anatomical lines and the tissue has not been crushed, as it is when scissors are used.

    To prevent lacerations, it is important to listen to the midwife or doctor carefully and to give small controlled pushes. Occasionally, the mother may be asked to push between contractions so the force of the contraction does not cause her to push with such force.

    If the baby shows signs of distress, or if the midwife or doctor believes that a tear into the deep muscle or into the rectum is inevitable, an episiotomy will generally be cut. But research has demonstrated that the highest incidence of rectal sphincter and rectal lacerations occurs when an episiotomy has been cut.

    Many variables go into the decision whether or not to cut an episiotomy and how to support the perineum at the time of birth. The best advice is to choose a care provider or a type of care provider who will work with you, listen to you, and minimize the use of routine procedures in their practice.

  • #2
    One more...

    (Not to make anyone feel too uncomfortable with a lot of personal detail, but women should know, and hopefully the kind of people who don't want/need to know won't be looking at this thread!)

    Speaking from experience...It is possible to have your period while you are pregnant. Weird isn't it? I remember stammerring "but, but, but..." and the doctor saying "Oh, its fine, nothing to worry about" and she changed the subject. I was too to find out I was three months along, otherwise I would have demanded a better explanation!

    Apparently the tendancy to have periods while pregnant tends to run in families...I found out later that my mother had experienced the same thing when pregnant with me. Unfortunantly her doctor, who was a complete whacko, prescribed total bedrest and "experimental" medications that made her lose weight and feel horrible, and were later connected to birth defects and taken off the market. Good thing I turned out normal Ok, relatively normal!


    • #3

      I've heard of that many times before. Women claiming they never new they were pregnant for months due to the fact that they were still getting their periods.. It is odd.. and I never knew it was something passed down.

      My Mom has had 8 children.. and My Older sister two, middle three, and now the younger one has had her first child after 6 misscarriages. None of the other femals in my family every had any problems getting or holding onto their pregnancy.. and the Doctors have their reasons why My sister had 6 misscarriages, but with each one, the reason was different.

      I tell you, being the youngest one in the family and seeing and learning things.. One can only be.. afriad of what could happen when I do decided to have a child..


      • #4
        I'm surprised that you've heard it a lot before...Whenever I've mentioned it people are surprised and some don't know if they should believe me, because biologically it doesn't seem to make sense.

        Maybe it's less well known here in the central US where our mothers generation never talked about such things!

        How wonderful that your sister was able to carry a baby after so many problems. She must be a very strong person to have gone through so much.

        And you do hear a lot of scary things from neighbors, coworkers, aunts, etc. Mostly because it is exciting and a badge of honor for mothers to tell all about the scary things they have experienced!

        Although pregnancy and childbirth is supposed to be amazing and wonderful, to me it was just kind of weird and freaky...but I was excited to have a baby, and I'm very glad that I did! My older sister didn't have a baby until a few years later, and I have only one cousin who was rather far away. You are lucky to have a lot more experience to draw from if you decide to have kids!


        • #5
          Thanks Skookie..

          Yeah growing up with 7 of us (me being the baby.. lmao) and Gods.. I've lost count of how many cousins.. lol.. It was really great.. and we were all very close. Holidays, you couldn't walk thru the living room without steping on someone.. and now I have 16 nieces and nephews.. and that is just kind of pricey at holidays but it is so much fun and I wouldn't trade it for anything.. I love having a big family.. however, I hope to have at least 2 children but I will be very happy with one, if that is my path. I know I'm getting a late start but thats Ok. Now a days women are having children into their 40's so thats kool. I got time..

          My sister took each misscarriage pretty hard, but she really wanted to bring a child into this world, and I give her lots of credit for it..

          Freaky? well.. thats kool.. why thou?

          And yes, I've heard of women having periods. And I've heard of a lot more stranger things then that..


          • #6
            I think babies are fascinating and amazing and beautiful, but I just hadn't been around any before (or during!) my pregnancy...I'd never been around women who were pregnant. Just those dreary posters in high school that said "don't let your hot date turn into a due date." So having my tummy get big wasn't something I'd ever thought much about until it started happening. I just didn't have any actual experience to associate it with, y'know?

            Having six older brothers and sisters sounds FUN...


            • #7

              I had its ups and downs.. but it was fun.. I didnt enjoy being the "baby" of the bunch.. lol.. all that often thou.. only when we got in trouble.. Daddy was mucccccchhh easier on me.. lmao.. and they all hated that.. lol

              I tell you as well, I feel as if I've always been around someone who was pregnant. And When I was 12 or so I started babysitting for 3 children down the block from me and that lasted .. gods years.. I was there before they woke in the morning.. made them breakfast, picked them up at the school buss stop.. made them dinner, did homework..

              Its just always been apart of my life..

              So tell me.. lmao.. how is the whole tummy growing thing? A major bug out I would guess no?

              Thats what I fear the most.. I don't want to get HUge.. lol


              • #8
                Getting huge IS part of the picture. My daughter is eight years old and I still haven't gotten down to my pre-pregnancy weight, except for one time, and that was years ago. But, you know, yes, pregnancy does indeed have its weirdness to it. For instance, I absoluetely love tomatoes, but when I was pregnant with Susan they and anything tomato-based were absoluely detestable to me. My poor husband (now ex-husband) patiently put up with my comments whenever he would eat salad. The cravings can be really strange at times (Why in the world would I be craving THAT?).

                But, for the most part, pregnancy was a wonderful time for me, a time that drew me closer to the Lord as we worked together to bring Susan into the world. For many months, though, it seemed like a dream and I often wondered if anything was really going on inside me. Until I started showing. And then feeling her kick. She'd often play "hide & seek". She'd kick, and I'd tell my hubby and he'd stare and see if he could see the kick. Nothing ever happened at those times. Little monkey!

                During the first 20 weeks of pregnancy, I continued my weight conditioning at our Nordic Flex Gold, including advanced abdominal crunches. After 20 weeks, it became too uncomfortable. However, I've often thought that that's why Susan's so doggone strong, stronger than me in some cases. The mother's prenatal lifestyle definitely affects the unborn child.
                As the stars in their vast orbits, God's timing knows neither haste nor delay.