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Deciphering pregnancy facts from fiction

Pregnant? Congratulations! Now, get ready for an onslaught of advice from everyone from your third cousin to strangers in the grocery store: “The only orange food you should eat is carrots.” “Never drink out of a plastic cup.” “Don’t walk too fast.” (None of these, by the way, is true.)

Below, we dispel a few of the more common pregnancy myths, with help from Oyenike Kilanko, MD, an obstetrician-gynecologist and a spokeswoman for text4baby, a service of the National Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition.

So, what do you think? True or false?

  1. “Pregnancy brain” is real.

    TRUE! OK, there’s not an actual medical condition called pregnancy brain, or baby brain. But some studies indicate pregnancy may have cognitive effects on women, mainly forgetfulness. “Women should not worry that this will be a permanent response,” Kilanko explains. The reasons behind forgetting where you put your left shoe or trailing off in midsentence while pregnant are up for debate, but it’s thought that those pesky hormonal changes are to blame. Sleep deprivation—another side effect of pregnancy—also might play a role.

    Try this: Don’t stress—pregnancy brain will pass! But if sleeplessness is running you down, try getting at least 30 minutes of exercise a day (as long as your doctor approves) to help you sleep better at night.

  2. Pregnant women should “eat for two.”

    FALSE. Though you’re allowed to use this excuse to justify a second helping now and again, there’s no truth behind it. “Eating for two is a dated and outmoded answer to weight gain in pregnancy,” Kilanko says. “Most patients don’t require more calories than they did prior to pregnancy.”

    The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says pregnant women at a normal weight need only 300 extra calories a day for a baby’s growth. If you start out a pregnancy underweight or overweight, you may need more or fewer calories, depending on your doctor’s recommendation.

    Try this: Keep healthy, ready-to-eat snacks handy, such as yogurt, nuts, hard-boiled eggs or cut-up fresh fruits and vegetables, to dissuade you from reaching for sugary or high-fat impulse drinks and snacks like soda, candy or potato chips.

  3. That aerobics class is a bad idea.

    FALSE. Exercising while pregnant is great not only for mom but also baby, research shows. Thirty minutes of activity a day can help prevent gestational diabetes; increase energy levels; reduce backaches, constipation, bloating and swelling; and improve sleep. Just avoid exercises that increase your risk of falling, like skiing, gymnastics or horseback riding, and all contact sports. A caveat: “One should not attempt to suddenly become an athlete during pregnancy,” Kilanko says. “Patients should discuss all exercise regimens with their healthcare providers first.” In other words, if you never exercised before pregnancy, now is not the time to start training for that marathon.

    Try this: Activities like walking, swimming or prenatal yoga
    are great during pregnancy. But listen to your body and stop if anything feels “off.” Let your doctor know if you experience dizziness, shortness of breath, swelling or vaginal bleeding.

  4. Pregnant women should get a flu shot.

    TRUE. “You should always get the flu shot if you will be pregnant during the flu season,” Kilanko says. Pregnancy can negatively affect the immune system, upping a mom-to-be’s risk of getting sick. The flu may pose more problems during pregnancy, such as pneumonia and breathing difficulties, so the flu shot is extra important if you’re expecting. Plus, the doctor adds, the flu shot gives passive immunity to the newborn, a helpful side effect since babies aren’t eligible for vaccinations until they are 6 months old.

    Try this: Call your physician or hospital to make an appointment for a flu shot. Make sure to get the shot, which is made from an inactivated virus and is safe for pregnant women, and not the nasal-spray vaccine, which is made from a live virus.

  5. Eating spicy foods helps you go into labor faster.

    FALSE. There’s no evidence of this, Kilanko says. “Labor is a physiological mechanism. Spicy foods may give you diarrhea, but won’t induce labor.”

    Try this: Trust that your body will go into labor when it’s ready. Your doctor will advise you on next steps if you pass your due date. 


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