Prudent or Paranoid? The Truth About Nine Common Pregnancy Myths

Differentiate between the truth and the hype among pregnancy myths

A pregnant mother shares a caring moment with her daughter in a pleasant indoor setting.

by K.B. Lim, OB/GYN

Hair color, hot tubs, coffee and sex — they are just a few of the topics that are often debated during pregnancy. As if pregnant women do not have enough to think about, they are frequently faced with a list of “do’s” and “don’ts” supplied by well-meaning — but sometimes misinformed — family, friends and strangers on the street.

While some activities in question may be perfectly fine for both mother and baby, others are best limited until after the birth. Here is the bottom line on some of the most common pregnancy questions.

Myth: You should not exercise while you are pregnant.

Check with your physician about specific types of exercises but, in general, most exercises that you were doing prior to your pregnancy can be continued for as long as you are comfortable. Optimally, pregnant women should exercise at least three days a week. As your baby — and your body — grow, your sense of balance may change, so watch out for falls. Always incorporate a warm-up and cool-down, and drink plenty of water during and after your workouts.

Myth: You are eating for two, so have all you want.

Pregnant women need an additional 300 calories above the daily average of 1800 to 2300 calories. You can easily add 300 calories with a cup of regular yogurt, apple slices with peanut butter, or a small turkey sandwich — but not all three! Your doctor can help you monitor your weight gain during pregnancy to make sure that you are on track.

Myth: Having sex during pregnancy is dangerous for the baby.

Sex will not hurt you or your baby if you have an uncomplicated pregnancy. You and your partner may find some positions more comfortable than others. Take time to get used to your changing body, and experiment to find out what is most comfortable.

Myth: Do not color your hair.

It is perfectly fine to dye your hair and get your nails done, assuming the salon you choose is clean and reputable. However, if the fumes are overwhelming when you enter, it is probably not the best place to be — especially since pregnancy can increase your sensitivity to chemical smells. If you are having a manicure or pedicure, it is best to take your own nail tools along to decrease the risk of infection, whether you are pregnant or not.

Myth: No more Starbucks.

There is no proof that small amounts of caffeine (such as one cup of coffee a day) adversely affect a normal pregnancy, so go ahead and enjoy. If you have a complicated pregnancy, you may want to limit your caffeine intake. Check with your doctor to be sure.

Not a myth: Avoid hot tubs and steam rooms.

This one is true. Hot tubs, steam rooms and saunas are all off-limits. During pregnancy, your core body temperature should not rise above 102.2. It is fine to relax in a warm bath or shower.

Not a myth: No more sushi.

This again is true. Limit your intake of uncooked fish and meat, as well as unpasteurized cheese, during pregnancy. It is always better to avoid self-inflicted nausea and indulge in foods with fewer risks of bacterial contamination.

Myth: Use [insert magic formula here] to get rid of stretch marks.

There are no magic creams or cures for stretch marks. Save your money and use a lubricating lotion or cocoa butter cream to keep the stretching skin from itching and becoming irritated.

Myth: An epidural will prolong labor.

As long as you are making active progress in labor when you receive the anesthesia, an epidural should not slow your labor. Your physician and the anesthesiologist will discuss the risks and benefits of the procedure.

Communicating with your doctor

Remember, your doctor is your best resource for questions and concerns about your pregnancy. Let your doctor know what is on your mind, and together the two of you can help make your pregnancy as safe and joyful as possible.

This Scripps Health and Wellness information was provided by K.B. Lim, an OB/GYN at Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla.