Mommy myths: Fact vs. fiction in pregnancy


by Holly Eliason, DO

Feb 1, 2021

Pregnancy is such an exciting time in one’s life, but it’s also filled with so many questions. How do you know what and whom to believe? Let’s de-bunk some common mommy myths I hear as an OB/GYN.

Myth #1: “You can’t exercise while pregnant.”

This statement is false — you can and should exercise in pregnancy. It is encouraged by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) to stay active during your pregnancy (unless advised otherwise by your doctor).

Women who exercise in pregnancy have fewer chances of having a larger than average baby. Exercise in pregnancy also decreases your risk for needing a c-section. If you have gestational diabetes, exercise is a great way to lower your blood sugar. It is also very helpful in reducing back pain and constipation without medications.

When you exercise during pregnancy, there are a few things to keep in mind.

  • Don’t start an intense regimen if you are new to exercise.
  • Do start slow, with shorter workouts to work your way up to more intense workouts.
  • Exercises we recommend include brisk walking or jogging, running, swimming, high intensity interval training (HIIT), dance classes, yoga, pilates, barre, indoor cycling and weight or resistance training.
  • Avoid exercises that could result in high-impact abdominal trauma or falls such as biking on the street, soccer, football, horseback riding and downhill skiing/snowboarding.

ACOG, like the American Heart Association, recommends that all women (regardless of pregnancy status), get at least 150 minutes of aerobic exercise per week. Aerobic exercises are those where you move the largest muscles of your body in a rhythmic way to increase your heart rate (as opposed to strictly weightlifting and bodybuilding). Resistance training is also important in pregnancy but focus on aerobic exercises first.

The benefits of exercise do not end after delivery. Women who exercise while pregnant are more successful in weight loss after giving birth. Investing in an exercise regimen today can continue to pay dividends well into the future. By developing a lifelong habit, you can reduce your chances of cardiovascular and stroke disease for many years to come.

Related: Pregnant? 6 abnormal signs you should call your doctor

Myth #2: “Once a c-section, always a c-section.”

This is a very common myth out there, but it is certainly possible to have a vaginal delivery after a cesarean section. Typically, a vaginal delivery after a c-section is offered if you have had only one previous c-section.

The process of attempting to have a vaginal delivery after a c-section is called a “trial of labor after a c-section” also known as a TOLAC. You can discuss with your OB/GYN if you are a candidate for a vaginal delivery after a c-section.

For some women, a planned repeat cesarean delivery is a safer option. There are many different factors that influence your chances of a successful vaginal delivery, including if you have had a prior vaginal delivery, the reason for your previous c-section, maternal age and obesity. A vaginal delivery typically has an easier recovery with fewer complications than a c-section and less postpartum pain. Discuss the pros and cons with your OB/GYN to best understand both options.

Myth #3: “When you are pregnant, you are eating for two.”

When you are pregnant, some weight gain is healthy and expected, but you do not need to double your typical food intake. ACOG recommends “eating twice as healthy” and for good reason. The dangers of overeating in pregnancy lead to added complications as you are not only caring for yourself, but also for your child. If you’re not sure what healthy eating should look like, start with these pregnancy nutrition tips.

Weight gain is a normal part of pregnancy that happens to all expecting mothers. Normal weight gain is approximately 25-35 pounds. The majority of this weight gain should happen in the third trimester. Mothers who are overweight or obese should strive to gain less weight. You should discuss with your OB/GYN the optimal weight gain for your pregnancy.

Healthy nutrition in pregnancy truly begins prior to pregnancy. Women of childbearing age who are planning to become pregnant should be on prenatal vitamins or a multivitamin that contains folic acid. This helps to prevent serious birth defects. Look for a daily intake of at least 400mcg of folic acid (also known as folate). Vitamins and minerals help your baby to develop and give some of the elemental building blocks for normal development.

Myth #4: “You can’t drink coffee when you’re pregnant.”

While moderate to high amounts of caffeine in pregnancy have been found to increase risk of miscarriages, stillbirths and low birth weights, low amounts of caffeine are generally considered safe in pregnancy. The ACOG recommends keeping your daily intake of caffeine below 200 mg per day. An 8 oz. cup of coffee has approximately 100-150 mg of caffeine so you should limit your intake accordingly.

Other sources of caffeine to keep in mind include sodas and soft drinks, energy and sports drinks, and tea. There are tiny amounts of caffeine that can be found in chocolates, but these are minimal in comparison to caffeinated beverages.

Myth #5: “A glass of wine is okay here and there during pregnancy.”

No amount of alcohol in pregnancy is safe. Per ACOG, alcohol is the leading cause of birth defects and is not recommended in pregnancy. Even the smallest amounts can cause harm to your baby or a loss in pregnancy.

Alcohol has been shown to negatively affect development, birthweights and neurologic development in babies. Alcohol can cause fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) which is a syndrome defined by low birth weights, a smaller head size and neurologic problems. These babies have abnormal development and can have lasting deficits. FAS has no treatment, so prevention is key.

Mothers looking to become pregnant should stop drinking alcohol before trying to become pregnant. If you find out you are pregnant and have trouble stopping an alcohol habit, seek attention from your OB/GYN immediately as they can advise you on the safest way to stop drinking alcohol for the health of both you and your baby.

Myth #6: “Carrying a baby beyond its due date is harmful.”

While it may feel like your baby has been inside of you for too long, a normal duration (term) of pregnancy is anywhere from 37-42 weeks. Less than 4 percent of women will deliver on their exact due date. One of the most common reasons for a post-term delivery is improper dating. The estimated gestational age is most accurately calculated early on in the pregnancy. It can be reliably calculated using your last menstrual period (LMP) and early (prior to 20 weeks) ultrasound scans.

Risks of post-term deliveries include delivery complications related to baby size, stillbirths and neonatal death, and breathing difficulty from meconium aspiration. First time mothers are at a higher chance of developing post-term deliveries, as are those with a history of post-term deliveries. If you have not delivered by the 41st week, your OB/GYN may consider an induction, during which a medication is applied to help soften and dilate the cervix to promote labor.

There you have it — the truth about a few common myths and misconceptions about pregnancy. Remember, there’s a lot of information out there about pregnancy, but you can always trust your OB/GYN to have your best interests in mind. Be sure and share any concerns, fears or questions you have about pregnancy.

Don’t have an OB/GYN you can trust? Find an OB/GYN near you.

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