There are many myths and superstitions surrounding pregnancy; many of us are guilty of believing some of these; but is there any truth behind them?
Eating for two:
The energy demands of pregnancy are astonishingly low. Most women only need extra calories for the second half of pregnancy; 200 extra calories (two bananas) a day is sufficient. 50% of women in the UK are overweight at the start of pregnancy. Consequently having higher risk of miscarriage, gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia, premature labour, and blood clots. They’re also more likely to require assisted delivery or caesarean section, and their babies are more likely to have congenital abnormalities like spina bifida and heart defects, as well becoming overweight adults themselves.
Breastfeeding sheds pregnancy weight:
Breastfeeding burns 200-500 calories/day; similar to that burnt off in a 1-hour jog. However, milk production is stimulated by the hormone prolactin, and prolactin also stimulates appetite. Studies found that women tend to over-compensate for the calorie loss by generally eating more.
Sex induces labour:
Sex triggers the production of the hormone oxytocin. Oxytocin dilates the cervix in preparation for labour and causes contractions. Semen contains hormones called prostaglandins that also promote contractions and are involved in inducing labour. Sex, in the third trimester, might be advised against in mothers with a history of premature labour, but for most women, sex won’t affect the pregnancy.
Curry induces labour:
Spicy foods are also believed to increase prostaglandins; but there’s no conclusive proof that curry induces labour.
Morning sickness means a healthy baby:
Morning sickness can happen at any time of day, and isn’t related to the health or gender of the baby. The hormones produced by the normal placenta and low blood-sugar are what cause nausea and vomiting.
Baby-bump predicts gender:
First-time mums have tighter stomach muscles and ligaments so baby bumps are higher. The baby’s presentation (breech, transverse etc), gestational age and size also affect the bump’s position. Gender doesn’t affect these factors.
You shouldn’t lie on your back:
Lying on your back makes it difficult for your heart to pump blood because the weight of your baby compresses your large veins. The ideal position is on your side, knees bent; but in a healthy pregnancy, a baby will be fine in any position the mother sleeps in.
Moisturising prevents stretch marks:
Stretch marks occur due to changes in the elastic tissue underneath the skin. Genetics influence how you’ll be affected; and how much and how quickly your skin has to expand, based on the baby’s size and growth. There’s no evidence to prove that creams or oils prevent stretch marks.
Exercise harms the baby:
More, or continued, exercise in a healthy pregnancy, isn’t only safe but beneficial; it reduces fatigue, swollen ankles, varicose veins, insomnia and depression. A woman’s heart pumps more blood to the baby when exercising; giving the baby more oxygen and nutrients.
It appears that pregnancy temporarily decreases brain size; but doesn’t affect function and memory.