Pregnancy is a trying time for any woman. From our mothers telling us to avoid this and that, to friends giving us their two cents on what we should or should not do, to strangers adding their random opinions to the growing list — getting through pregnancy without getting overwhelmed by all these opinions can be challenging. While your doctor will confirm some are silly pregnancy myths you can ignore, others can be dangerous to you or your baby.
14 Common Myths About Pregnancy
Here are common pregnancy myths that you don’t actually need to (or want to) follow:
1. You Can Eat What You Want
Doctors agree that pregnant women need to eat a bit more than those who are not pregnant. However, this should only add approximately 340 calories to your diet starting in the second trimester, not a thousand or more.1,13 You are not eating for an army! If you are pregnant with twins, you should add 600 extra calories a day.13
2. Cocoa Butter Will Prevent Stretch Marks
This pregnancy advice is a myth, as cocoa butter doesn’t reduce or prevent stretch marks. In fact, cocoa butter has been found to make our skin even more sensitive. For some women, it can also cause an allergic reaction (which is something to avoid when you’re pregnant).2
3. You Can’t Touch Your Cat
Petting your cat during pregnancy is fine. However, you should not clean your cat’s litter box because of the risk of toxoplasmosis, a parasitic infection. The CDC also has specific guidelines for pregnant women regarding pet cats, including keeping your cat indoors and only giving them commercial dry or canned food.3
4. You Can’t Take Hot Baths To Relax
This is a pregnancy myth because it depends on the temperature. The American Pregnancy Association says a hot bath is generally safe, as there’s less risk of overheating. Meanwhile, taking a scalding hot bath when you’re pregnant should be avoided. You should also avoid things like saunas and jacuzzis because they will quickly raise your body temperature to over 102 degrees, which is unsuitable for your baby.4
5. Don’t Snack Throughout the Day
Eating three meals a day is good, but when you are pregnant, it is better to eat five to six small meals throughout the day from various food groups.16 This will keep your blood sugar in a constant range, which is healthy for you and your baby.17 While you don’t want to go overboard on snacking, it’s okay to have healthy snacks throughout the day, such as fresh fruit and raw vegetables, in moderation.16
6. A Big Baby Is a Healthy Baby
The average baby weighs about 7 ½ pounds. Fetal macrosomia and babies who are large for their gestational age weigh greater or equal to 4,500 grams. They have an increased risk of birth trauma or cesarean delivery. They are also at increased risk of developing obesity or diabetes as they grow older.5
7. A Small Baby Is a Healthy Baby
While a big baby has its disadvantages, a tiny baby also comes with several risks. A smaller baby born weighing less than 2,500 grams can suffer from serious health problems as a toddler and as an adult compared to a baby with a healthy weight. If they have a low birth weight, they also have an increased risk of developing a disability.6
8. You Should Stop Working Out
This is another common pregnancy myth! Staying active while pregnant is important for preparing you for birth and keeping you healthy for your baby. Although you should avoid high-intensity workouts, you should continue working out for nine months. However, you should discuss your plans for exercise with your OB-GYN before beginning or continuing a routine.14
9. One Drink Won’t Hurt the Baby
Some pregnant women allow themselves a sip of wine, while others abstain entirely. Much of this myth depends on the mother, but studies have shown that drinking during pregnancy increases the risk of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs).7,15 According to the CDC, alcohol can also be dangerous during pregnancy and lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, and other issues.15
10. Smoking Won’t Affect the Baby’s Health
Some women smoke during their first pregnancy, and when they see that their baby is fine, they think they can get away with smoking during their consequent pregnancies. However, studies have shown the severe health risks that smoking can cause for babies. So, even if the health issues are not evident, abstaining from smoking during this time is highly recommended by medical experts worldwide.8,18
11. You Can Tell the Gender by Your Stomach
I always heard old wives’ tales that if you carry low, it means you’re having a boy. More than enough, moms have told me that this isn’t true! There is no scientific evidence linking the way you carry to the gender of your baby.9 The only way to honestly know what you are having is to find out the gender with your doctor or wait until the baby is born to find out the gender (if you have that kind of patience). This is among the most circulated pregnancy myths!
12. You Can’t Wear Heels
This one was a bit disappointing for me, as any excuse to avoid heels is a good thing in my book. But for all the women who love putting on their favorite pair of stilettos for work or a dinner date, you don’t have to stop just because you’re pregnant! The reason this pregnancy myth went around is that wearing heels may increase your chance of falling, which could hurt the baby. However, as long as you are careful and comfortable in your heels, there is no need to stick to flats for all nine months. Some experts, though, advise against wearing heels during the later months of pregnancy.19
13. You Can’t Dye Your Hair
Yes, it’s true; this is one of many pregnancy myths! You don’t have to deal with dark roots or gray hairs while pregnant. It’s smart for women to feel their best while pregnant, and if a hair touch-up does that for you, then, by all means, get your hair done! It’s been proven that hair dye is not toxic enough to harm your baby and that the skin only absorbs a tiny amount, so it won’t affect the fetus.10,11 If you perm or chemically straighten your hair, you may want to wait until the baby is born to get these treatments done.
14. You Must Avoid Traveling
This one is a mixed bag. Many people will tell you not to get on an airplane in your first trimester, while others are adamant about steering clear of travel in your third trimester. Research has shown there isn’t necessarily a correlation between planes and pregnancies.12 Still, many doctors have pregnant women avoid plane travel due to the inability to get help from a doctor and the small confines if you have an issue. Always consult your doctor before traveling to determine the best option for you and your baby.
As soon as you get pregnant, be prepared to hear everyone’s opinions about what you should and shouldn’t do while pregnant. And be ready to combat the pregnancy myths! Just remember: this is your body and your baby, and usually, you are the best person to know what feels right.