In the 1950s, smoking was not discouraged during pregnancy, which is unthinkable in America today. Throughout history, women have advised about what they should and shouldn’t do when they become pregnant. Well-meaning friends and relatives offer truisms that they were told. Even now, pregnant women hear that raising their hands over their heads might cause the umbilical cord to wrap around the baby's neck. This is not true.
“As an expectant mother, you need to learn what truly is and isn’t safe for you and your developing baby, based on the best available medical evidence,” says Lina Wong, DO, a board-certified OB/GYN at St. Jude Heritage Medical Group. “With all of the frequently poor advice and even misleading material about pregnancy found online and in popular books, it's important that you ask questions and listen to your OB/GYN or perinatologist, your primary care physician and other trusted, medically-trained experts you may have on your care team, such as a laborist, certified nurse midwife or obstetrical nurse.”
Dr. Wong dispels some common misconceptions about pregnancy:
- Don't get vaccinated while you're pregnant.
Centers for Disease Control guidelines generally recommend certain vaccines, like Tdap and inactivated flu vaccine, for use in pregnant women. In fact, many vaccinations you get while pregnant help protect your baby until he or she can be vaccinated after being born. Other "live vaccines" for human papillomavirus (HPV) and measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) are not generally given to women known to be pregnant. Dr. Wong says, "It's imperative that you to talk to your doctors to see which vaccines you should receive to safeguard your health and the health of your baby from serious diseases like hepatitis A, hepatitis B and influenza."
- Expectant mothers don't have to worry about drinking alcohol during pregnancy, as long they drink in moderation.
A recent report from the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that pregnant women avoid alcohol completely. Aside from potentially measuring low on the growth curve for height and weight, babies who have mothers who abuse alcohol during pregnancy are at risk of damage in their speech, learning and neurological development, or any other number of extremely serious conditions on the spectrum of fetal alcohol disorders.
- Exercise during pregnancy will send you into premature labor.
You may have heard that exercise during pregnancy could harm your baby or cause premature birth. However, regular daily exercise can help you manage the common discomforts of pregnancy and increase your chances of having a vaginal delivery free of complications. Exercise can also aid in postpartum recovery.
- You can't eat any fish and cheese until after the baby is born.
Many pregnant women have been told that they should avoid fish and cheese altogether, but there are some safe options. Salmon and other fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids like DHA help your baby’s mental and visual development. Avoid larger fish that tend to be higher in mercury, like swordfish, shark, king mackerel and tuna steaks. Cheese is a terrific source of calcium, and hard cheeses like cheddar, Gouda and Parmesan are generally considered safe for pregnant women to eat. It’s best to avoid soft cheeses like Gorgonzola, Brie and goat cheese because they are more likely to contain listeria, a type of germ. If you become infected with listeria while pregnant, your baby could become infected as well, and you could be at increased risk of miscarriage or premature delivery.
- When you're pregnant, you need to eat for two.
Carrying a baby does not require you to double your caloric intake. "There are certain nutrients you need more of, like folic acid, but overeating isn't good for either of you," says Dr. Wong. "If you gain too much weight while pregnant, you are at increased risk of gestational diabetes and high blood pressure. You may also be more likely to need a C-section due to having a larger baby."
A pregnant mother needs expert prenatal care as she gets ready to start, or add to, a healthy and happy family. If you need an OB/GYN, click here to find a physician in your area.
What is the biggest myth you were told when you were pregnant? Tell us in a comment below.
This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional's instructions.