There is a lot of advice for women about being pregnant, much of it coming from different sources — from family and friends to a longtime hairstylist. It seems like everyone has something to say about the subject, from what to eat to how much exercise you should be doing.
How do you know what to believe and what to take with a grain of salt? Here are 6 common misconceptions about being pregnant that turned out to be just old wives’ tales after all.
1. You should avoid fish due to high mercury levels
It is often heard that women who are pregnant should avoid fish because of the high levels of mercury that it contains. There are some types of fish, like king mackerel, swordfish, tilefish, marlin, and specific types of tuna, that have potent mercury levels, but there are also fish that are in the clear.
Salmon, anchovies, herring, sardines, trout, pollack, catfish, and Atlantic and Pacific mackerel have low levels of mercury and are high in omega-3 fatty acids. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) both state that pregnant women can safely eat 12 ounces (340 grams) of seafood a week.
2. Drinking coffee will cause a miscarriage or a preterm birth
In the recent past, your gynecologist or obstetrician would have strongly advised against having any coffee due to the belief that it could cause severe birth complications. Now the National Health Service (NHS) states that 200 mg of caffeine (equivalent to two cups of coffee) is fine to have each day — just note that this includes caffeine found in chocolate, tea, and sodas as well.
3. Being pregnant means it is fine to double your calorie intake because you are eating for two
It is true that pregnant women need extra calories to support the new life growing inside of them, but it is important to remember that they are not eating for two adults. A women who is of average weight should gain 25 to 35 pounds when she is pregnant and should take in an extra 300 healthy calories a day. Of course, every woman’s body type differs and it is recommended that underweight women should gain 28 to 40 pounds and overweight women should gain 15 to 25 pounds during pregnancy.
4. It is fine to drink a small amount of alcohol when you are pregnant
Depending on cultural background, some people might say it is fine to drink small amounts of alcohol while pregnant. However, due to the lack of reliable scientific research, it is best not to risk it. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), alcohol that is consumed by a woman while pregnant passes through her bloodstream and to the baby through the umbilical cord. This can cause a risk of miscarriages and a range of mental and physical disorders called fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs).
5. You should avoid cheese since it has a high risk of carrying food-borne illnesses
Unpasteurized cheese like brie, feta, and goat cheese are definitely on the foods-to-avoid list for pregnant women, but that does not mean pasteurized cheese is a no-no. According to the Mayo Clinic, safe options like swiss and cheddar are perfectly fine for consumption when pregnant. Make sure to check the labels of any cheeses to double-check whether they are pasteurized or not.
6. Spicy food will definitely induce labor
This is one of the most common old wives’ tales surrounding pregnancy. It is believed that spicy foods can irritate a woman’s intestine and cause contraction in the uterus. However, there is no direct connection with the uterus and the stomach and therefore this belief has not been proven true. Eating a certain type of food will not make a difference regarding when you go into labor.
Featured photo credit: Montse PB via flickr.com