Technology and medicine have transformed the experience of pregnancy for modern women. Prenatal medical testing can indicate the sex of your child, the amount of fluid in your uterus, the weight of your baby before birth, and many other things. Yet, despite this increased reliance on diagnostic information, pregnancy continues to inspire its own set of myths and tales — some that are wacky and some that are downright weird.
Parents who wouldn't dream of skipping a prenatal appointment often find themselves wondering whether Great Aunt Sally's predictions about Junior's gender could be on the money. Why would parents choose to follow pregnancy advice from friends and family that isn't grounded in medical science?
In many cases, hearing predictions about the baby's sex or how much hair the baby will have is fun and harmless. In some cases, though, it may be harmful to do what a pregnancy myth or tale suggests. Here's when you should beware:
- when the myth suggests that you contradict your doctor's medical treatment (such as discontinuing prenatal vitamins)
- when the myth suggests that you ingest or inhale something that isn't recommended by your doctor (such as herbs or drugs)
- when the myth makes you extremely fearful for your baby's health (stress on the mother can adversely affect the baby)
Common Pregnancy Myths
Pregnancy myths may vary from generation to generation and from region to region. Myths your grandmother in Texas claims are true might be different from what your uncle in Alaska believes. Here are a few of the most common pregnancy myths:
Myth: Standing on your head after sex can increase your chances of becoming pregnant.
Truth: Although some experts say that lying down after sex for 20 to 30 minutes can boost your chances of conception because it keeps the sperm inside you, standing on your head has not been proven to aid in conception (and you might hurt your neck while trying to do it!).
Myth: The shape and height of your belly can indicate your baby's sex.
Truth: The popular belief that women carrying boys carry low and that women carrying girls carry high just isn't true. The shape and height of your belly is determined by your muscle tone, uterine tone, and the position the baby is in. That's why someone may think you're having a boy because you're carrying low, when actually the baby just dropped lower into the pelvis because you're closer to delivery. So, what's the most accurate way to determine your baby's sex? Talk to your doctor about getting an ultrasound.
Myth: Fetal heart rate can indicate your baby's sex.
Truth: A normal fetal heart rate is between 120 and 160 beats per minute (bpm), although some people think if it's faster (usually above the 140 bpm range) it's a girl and if it's slower it's a boy. But there have been no studies that conclusively show that heart rate is a predictor for a baby's gender. Your baby's heart rate will probably differ from prenatal visit to prenatal visit anyway — depending on the age of the fetus and activity level at the time of the visit.
Myth: The shape and fullness of your face during pregnancy can indicate your baby's sex.
Truth: Every woman gains weight differently during pregnancy, and every woman experiences different skin changes. If people tell you that because your face is round and rosy you're having a girl, they might be right — but it's just as likely that they're wrong!
Seeking the Truth
As you go through your pregnancy, it can be fun to collect and record various people's tales. However, for medical advice pertaining to pregnancy, you should always consult your doctor first.
And keep in mind that every woman's pregnancy is different, which means that your doctor can provide you with information tailored toward your personal medical situation. That's information that friends, family, and strangers at the mall won't have when they tell you their pregnancy predictions.
So, enjoy the stories — but talk to your doctor before you do anything that could affect the health or well-being of you or your baby.
Reviewed by: Elana Pearl Ben-Joseph, MD
Date reviewed: October 2007
Originally reviewed by: George Macones, MD