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Common myths about pregnancy

5-minute read

If you are pregnant, you might be getting a lot of advice from well-meaning people. You might be asking whether what they say is true. This article looks at some of the common myths you might hear and provides some answers.

Myth: Eating peanuts and dairy can make your baby allergic to them

Truth: It's perfectly safe to eat these foods unless you yourself are allergic to them, or if your doctor advises you not to. There is no evidence that cutting out some foods will prevent your baby from being allergic to them, but limiting your diet can be harmful to your baby as you might not get all the nutrition you need.

There are some foods that it's best to avoid during pregnancy due to the risks in certain harmful microbes. They include some soft cheeses, patés, raw meat or fish, raw or partly cooked eggs, and soft-serve ice cream.

Read more on foods to avoid when pregnant.

Myth: There are ways you can tell if it's a boy or a girl

Truth: The position of the baby in your tummy, holding a wedding ring over your abdomen and watching in which direction it turns, or how active the baby is, are all ways you may have heard to tell if you are having a boy or a girl, but none of these methods works. The Non-invasive prenatal test (NIPT) is a blood test available after 10 weeks that can reveal the sex of the baby. In many cases, an ultrasound scan can also let you know the sex of your baby. It isn’t 100% reliable, but you can ask the ultrasound technician to tell you what they can see. You can also ask them not to tell you if you want to wait until the birth to find out.

Read more on antenatal tests during pregnancy.

Myth: I should be 'eating for 2' while I'm pregnant

Truth: There is no evidence to show that you need to eat for 2 when you’re pregnant. How much extra you need to eat depends on your weight and height, how active you are and how far into your pregnancy you are. But, in general, most women should only eat about 350 to 450 additional calories per day while they are pregnant. That’s a couple of extra healthy snacks like fruit, a hard-boiled egg or a berry smoothie.

Overeating is bad for both you and your baby. Eating a healthy, balanced diet is what’s important.

Myth: I shouldn't have hot baths, dye my hair or exercise while pregnant

Truth: It’s perfectly safe to have a warm bath when pregnant, but avoid becoming too hot. During pregnancy, hormonal changes might make you feel warmer than normal. You should avoid spa baths as they can raise your core body temperature, which could lead to overheating, dehydration or fainting.

The low level of chemicals found in hair dye is generally thought to be safe. However, many women still prefer to avoid dyeing their hair in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. If you dye your hair, you can leave it on for as short a time as possible, or use semi-permanent vegetable dye. If you are a hairdresser, make sure you wear gloves when using hair dye and work in a well-ventilated space.

Most exercises that you did before pregnancy will be safe, but check with your doctor or midwife. If your pregnancy is uncomplicated, you should aim to exercise for an average 20 to 30 minutes, 4 to 5 times a week. Avoid exercises that put you at risk of a fall, such as horse riding, skiing or cycling. You might find you become breathless or feel hot more quickly during pregnancy. As a general rule, a light to moderate level should allow you to hold a conversation as you exercise when pregnant. If you become breathless as you talk, you’re probably exercising too strenuously.

Read more about things you should avoid during pregnancy.

Myth: Morning sickness only happens in the morning

Truth: Nausea (and/or vomiting) during pregnancy can occur at any time of day, due to changes in your hormones. For most women, it's more common in the morning and begins to improve after 3 months. But for some women, it's different.

Learn more about how to deal with morning sickness.

Myth: I can't have a cat in the house when I'm pregnant

Truth: There is no need to give away your pets when you become pregnant. However, there is a disease called toxoplasmosis that can be harmful to your unborn baby, and you can become infected by handling cat’s faeces. Ask someone else to change your cat’s litter, or wear gloves to do this — as well as when gardening — while you are pregnant.

Find out more about toxoplasmosis.

Myth: Cream can help avoid stretch marks

Truth: There is no evidence that creams or oils can remove or prevent stretch marks, which often fade in time.

Read more about stretch marks.

Myth: My heartburn means my baby has lots of hair

Truth: One small research study showed there might be a connection between having heartburn in pregnancy and the thickness of your baby's hair. However, heartburn is quite common in pregnancy.

Myth: It's unsafe to hang washing on the line

Truth: Reaching up above your head and hanging washing on the line is safe. It is unlikely that it will affect your baby's umbilical cord in any way. Your midwife or doctor will advise you if there are any activities that are unsafe for you in pregnancy.

Myth: I need to prepare my nipples for breastfeeding

Truth: There is no evidence that you need to prepare or toughen your nipples before birth.

Learn more about breastfeeding before your baby is born.

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Last reviewed: November 2020

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