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Sarah Yang

Myth Busters: Worst Pregnancy Advice (and What's Really True)

Just because someone’s already had a baby doesn’t mean they have the best advice. Learn what's fact—and what's pure fiction.

As a pregnant mom, people are probably peppering you with (unsolicited) advice about what to eat, how to exercise or even how to deliver baby. The problem? Not all advice is created equal, so we’re here to help you separate fact from fiction. Here’s some of the most egregious alternative facts we’ve heard about pregnancy, and why they’re just not true.

Stretching the truth

“I was told to not put my arms over my head because it would cause the [umbilical] cord to wrap around baby’s neck.” — Melissa O.

The truth: You can  stretch your arms above your head as much as you want during pregnancy. Your movements have no effect on baby’s umbilical cord. That’s just an old wives’ tale. But it is possible for baby to get the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck. It’s actually pretty common, though it’s rarely a serious problem. According to the March of Dimes, about 25 percent of babies are born with a nuchal cord (umbilical cord wrapped around baby’s neck). Sometimes it may cause heart rate problems in baby during labor and delivery, but it’s nothing to worry about too much. If it becomes dangerous, a c-section can be performed.

Milk chocolate

“Someone said to eat five chocolate bars a day during my last few weeks of pregnancy and the first month after birth so my milk would be rich enough.” — Maribeth K.

The truth: Five chocolate bars a day? In your pregnant dreams! Sorry, but this is totally false. It’s okay to indulge in chocolate once in a while during pregnancy, but it really won’t help your milk supply. And as for eating chocolate after pregnancy, you’ll want your  breastfeeding diet to mimic your healthy pregnancy diet. That means lean proteins, whole grains and fruits and veggies—not five chocolate bars. Plus, chocolate contains caffeine, something you don’t want to overdo.

Water worries

“No joke: Swimming in a pool could cause my baby to drown.” — Lyzette M.

The truth: You don’t need to skip pool time during pregnancy. It’s perfectly safe and baby won’t drown. And if you’re worried about chlorine, moderate exposure to it is fine (no hanging out in the pool for the whole day!). In fact, swimming is one of the best ways to get a cardio workout during pregnancy—you’ll feel comfy because of the weightless feeling in the water.

Baby bod

“Gain as much weight as you want!” — Keyla C.

The truth: Don’t start pigging out at an all-you-can-eat buffet.  Healthy weight gain during pregnancy is about 25 to 35 pounds if you have an average BMI. You should be adding three to five pounds in your first trimester and one or two pounds every week after that. But don’t worry, you can indulge a little bit—you should consume an extra 300 calories a day. Most days it should be a healthy 300 calories, but a bowl of ice cream here and there certainly won’t hurt.

Coffee shaming

“I was drinking a cup of coffee, and a guy told me that I might as well be drinking a beer. I was like, ‘Hey buddy, you can comment when you push a basketball out of your downstairs parts!’” — Danielle V.

The truth: While you should limit your caffeine intake during pregnancy, a cup won’t hurt (and no, it isn’t the equivalent of boozing while pregnant). The March of Dimes recommends limiting you caffeine intake to no more than 200 milligrams a day—that’s about one 12-ounce cup of coffee.

Rotten advice

“One of my friends told me to eat a lot of fresh pineapple to induce labor. That didn’t help; it just made me really sick.” — Caressa R.

The truth: Sorry, there aren’t any proven methods for  inducing labor naturally. You can try methods such as having sex, exercising and acupressure (if your doctor okays it), but you’ll want to stay away from nipple stimulation (it could lead to contractions that last too long and are too frequent), drinking castor oil (it will dehydrate you) and anything else you’ve tried that’s made you more uncomfortable (like eating enough pineapple to make you puke!).

Blowing smoke

“I kept getting terrible headaches, and I didn’t want to take Tylenol. Someone told me to try smoking pot, that it was totally harmless and a natural pain reliever.” — Shannon M.

The truth: This is a super-scary one. You shouldn’t smoke during pregnancy—whether it’s cigarettes or marijuana.  Smoking pot during pregnancy can affect the function of the placenta and may cause low birth weight or fetal distress during labor. If you have a major headache, it’s usually safe to take  acetaminophen (Tylenol) during pregnancy, but you’ll want to stay away from ibuprofen and aspirin.

To treat your  headaches naturally, you can put a warm towel on your face or a cold towel on the back of your neck. It might be helpful to rest in a room with the shades drawn, to eat small meals throughout the day and to take a warm shower. To avoid headaches, get plenty of sleep, exercise, eat healthy and drink a lot of water.

Not-so-natural birth

“I was told by a colleague not to give birth vaginally because my baby’s head would be deformed and I wouldn’t be able to have sex again. What?!” — TLB

The truth: Well, we’re not sure how this holds up, because we’re not seeing a lot of people walking around with deformed heads. And if women couldn’t have sex after a vaginal birth, we’d think that deliveries would be c-section only. So no, a vaginal delivery will not mess up your baby’s head permanently (it could temporarily, though) or stop you from having sex ever again. (Phew.) Plus, your OB will be monitoring the size of baby at every checkup. She’ll recommend a c-section if baby’s too big to deliver vaginally (but don’t worry; that’s pretty rare).

Room to breathe

“Don’t wear clothes that are too tight because it will squish the baby.” — Hannah E.

The truth: Tight clothes won’t hurt your baby—but they might make you uncomfortable. So go ahead and wear some skinny (maternity) jeans, slinky dresses and tight tops to show your baby bump. But we think you’ll want to spend more time in yoga pants and sweats than a bondage dress.

Cat’s out of the bag

“The funniest advice: Don’t carry a cat or it will steal my baby’s soul. I’m serious.” — Kyla C.

The truth: We haven’t heard any reports of baby-possessed cats. And obviously this is ridiculous. The one thing you do want to stay away from with cats, though, is changing the litter box. Cats can carry toxoplasmosis, which is an infection caused by a parasite. Cats are the parasite’s natural host, so if you come into contact with cat poop that has the parasite, you could become infected. So ask your partner to do it.

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