8 Pregnancy Myths That Are Total Bullcrap

Article by Jo Piazza about the pregnancy myths that are completely inaccurate provided by Redbook Magazine. 

The first trimester of my first pregnancy was the most terrifying three-month period of my life. In the midst of what I like to call pregnancy purgatory (the waiting period where even your doctor regularly warns you about the probability of miscarriage), I found myself frightened of the world, scared to do anything that could possibly compromise my baby’s safe arrival into this world.

And while it’s true that there are some very clear rules about what you can and cannot do during a pregnancy, there are also a lot of myths — many of them perpetuated over and over in internet chat rooms. That’s why I went into my pregnancy armed with too many ideas about what I couldn’t do. It turns out most of them were wrong — including these seven.

You Can’t Work Out Too Hard

 For those first three months of my pregnancy, I wasn’t just afraid of exercising — I was pretty much terrified of moving at at all. That’s because, according to research in the Journal of Perinatal Education, “for much of recent history pregnant women were treated as if they had an illness and were subjected to a state of confinement. They were advised to relax, avoid strenuous exertion, and minimize stretching and bending for fear of strangling or squashing the baby.”

But those recommendations have now seen a huge shift, and the majority of doctors recommend that women try to maintain a more active lifestyle and continue exercising as often as they did before they got pregnant. “Generally, more exercise than less is a good thing, just modify your routine as you get larger and listen to your body when it tells you you’re doing too much,” explains Robin Berzin, M.D., founder of Parsley Health. “Just keep in mind that you need to stay hydrated, as your blood volume has expanded and is redirected toward your uterus. And if you do high-intensity cardio, you might reduce the resistance a bit or slow down the speed.”

Plus, a study out of the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences suggests that mom’s exercise benefits the baby’s heart. The research showed that fetuses of moms who engaged in moderate to vigorous aerobic activity showed better heart health in the womb and as babies. The positive effect increased the more the mom exercised, so yeah, go to that yoga class and sign up for some swim time in the pool. Hello, buoyancy!

You Can’t Eat Sushi

 Before I got pregnant, I could take sushi or leave it. But in my first trimester, I began craving it in the worst way. I wanted everything — the ginger, the wasabi, and the crisp crunch of a well-done dragon roll. But I refused to give in to those cravings after friends and family members warned me that sushi was bad for pregnant women.

The only problem: Nobody could explain why it wasn’t a good idea. But it turns out the concern over raw fish is mainly related to the possibility of infection from bacteria like salmonella, and the truth is that a lot of the fish in sushi rolls can be cooked. Most sushi restaurants will mark items that have cooked fish, some even noting at what temperature, so you can order worry-free.

But there’s also concern over mercury levels, given that babies’ developing brains are sensitive to toxins, says Flynn O’Neill, a nurse practitioner at Bloom OB/GYN and co-founder of childbirth education company Stork. “When mercury-containing fish are eaten, we absorb 95 percent of the toxin and you cannot cook the mercury away,” she explains. “Therefore it’s best to avoid the four high-mercury fish — shark, king mackerel, tile-fish, and swordfish.”

Don’t take that as a cue to avoid fish at all costs, though. “Fish is a great source of low-fat, high-protein essential fatty acids like docosahexaenoic acid, known as DHA, that can help a pregnant woman and her growing baby by contributing to healthy brain, eye, and nervous system development,” says O’Neill. “Our body cannot make enough DHA on its own, so dietary intake is crucial to ensure adequate levels.”

In other words, make room for 4 oz. of low-mercury fish 2-3 times a week, per the FDA’s recommendation for pregnant ladies.

You Can’t Work Your Abs

When I first got pregnant, I was told by several friends who had recently given birth that if I did any abs work, my stomach wouldn’t be able to expand to accommodate the baby and I could rip my ab muscles in two just by doing a plank. Seriously.

Thankfully, that is not true and San Francisco-based trainer Austin Lopez explained that what matters is the type of abs workout you do. “The muscles you shouldn’t work are the rectus sheath, or the six-pack, so no more crunches or leg raises,” he says. “This is because the Linea alba, the connective tissue that runs down the abdominal wall, is prone to bulging and the pressure from the growing fetus and additional ab work (for example, crunches) could basically result in your internal organs being pushed out through the stretched-out connective tissue. It causes what’s known as an umbilical hernia and can be very uncomfortable to deal with.”

That said, Lopez added that you should be strengthening your pelvic floor and transverse abdominis. “The transverse abdominals act as a natural corset, helping to tighten up the gut like a weight-lifting belt,” he explains. “When the growing fetus puts pressure onto the front of the abdominal wall, the tight transverse abdominis muscles can prevent a hernia from happening.” So exercises like planks, glute bridges, and squats should be your pregnancy go-tos.

You Can’t Drink Alcohol or Coffee

I stopped craving coffee from the day I got pregnant, which was the first clue that I actually was pregnant seeing as I haven’t gone a day without a latte since high school. But I was curious if I had to go decaf all day every day, given the backlash that moms like Pink have suffered at the hands of internet trolls. Berzin says it’s fine to have one serving per day, so long as I stay under 200 mg of caffeine daily — and research backs her up.

As for the booze, obviously it’s best not to get drunk, or even have more than one drink in a day — Berzin says that kind of behavior can cause fetal alcohol syndrome. But on the days I’m yearning for a sip of my husband’s beer, it’s cool to indulge. “There is no evidence that light alcohol consumption of a single beer or glass of wine a couple times a week is unhealthy during pregnancy,” she says. Cheers!

You Can’t Dye Your Hair

After two years as a blonde, I went back to my natural brunette as soon as I started trying to get pregnant just in case it would be detrimental to my efforts. Of course, I freaked out for no reason. According to the American Pregnancy Association, most chemicals found in hair dye are not toxic for pregnant women. But if you’re a bit skittish anyway, never fear: colorists can still give you the look you want (my blonde back!). “Most women end up requesting highlights done slightly off the scalp, so it helps add tone and dimension without ever actually touching their skin,” says Allison Gandolfo, a colorist at the John Barrett salon in Bergdorf Goodman. “I always tell my clients to talk to their doctors if they’re nervous, even though most of the research says that very few chemicals actually permeate the scalp.”

You Can’t Get Manicures

When none of your clothes fit, your ankles swell to the size of sausages, and the circles under your eyes look like they’re never going away, manicured red nails can become pretty important. But, of course, one friend tried to take that little indulgence away when she told me nail polish can cause low birth weight. Um, WTF?

Basically, my friend is full of sh*t and nail pampering is perfectly safe for women during pregnancy, says O’Neill. “There’s a concern about the chemicals in salons and in nail polish, but if you’re in a well-ventilated, clean area and using a safe polish then you’re fine,” she explains. “Many companies are now making 5-free nail polishes for all women to enjoy — Chanel, Dior, Bliss, and OPI, for example — which means that they’re free of formaldehyde, dibutyl phthalate, toluene, camphor and formaldehyde resins.”

Still worried? O’Neill recommends visiting the Environmental Working Group’s website, where you’ll find a database of over 64,000 cosmetics that have been assessed for their risk for cancer, reproductive toxicity, and allergies.

You Can’t Have Sex

There’s a myth out there that all pregnant women are hornier than teenage boys watching their first Girls Gone Wild. Sadly, that wasn’t the case for me. In fact, I’d say my sex drive dipped after becoming pregnant, mainly because of the aching boobs and nausea situation. But I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t also because I was worried that getting some would hurt my baby — it even stopped my risk-taking husband in his tracks.

“Many fathers-to-be ask if it’s still okay to have sex and yes, it is,” says O’Neill. “Any position where the mother feels comfortable is allowed, although as your belly grows it may feel better from the side or behind to prevent pelvic pressure.” (Eh-hem, all the more reason to mix it up with different styles, I guess.)

And if you notice light spotting after you’ve done the deed, don’t freak out: O’Neill says it’s a common occurrence because a woman’s cervix is highly vascular during pregnancy. “That means there is a large amount of blood flow in our pelvis, so penetration from a penis, an ultrasound probe, or a pap smear may aggravate the area and cause some light bleeding.” If you notice more than a little though, get checked by your doctor.

You Can’t Sleep On Your Right Side

I don’t think I’ve gotten a full night’s sleep since I peed on that stick from CVS. While that’s largely because I have to get up to use the bathroom five times a night, it also has something to do with the fact that my aunt told me sleeping on my back or right side could cut off the blood flow to my uterus and kill my baby. But O’Neill says I didn’t even have to worry about that for the first four months of my pregnancy. (So, yeah, thanks Auntie.)

“In the past we encouraged women to sleep on their left side because the blood flow from a mother’s uterus to baby is stronger in this position. But occasionally waking up on your back is not going to cause harm,” says O’Neill. “And the risk doesn’t even come into play until your belly is large; when you’re 20-24 weeks along at the earliest.”

After 20 weeks, sleeping on your left or right side as often as possible is preferable, but there’s no need to panic if you find yourself on your back. To help, O’Neill suggests propping your body with pillows in between your knees and behind your back to help keep you on your side, which also helps alleviate hip and back pain. No wonder everyone falls in love with the Snoogle.