Pregnancy Myths and Legends

Author, Heidi Murkoff shares the answers to some of the most common pregnancy wives tales and internet legends.


Test your knowledge of 10 Pregnancy Wives Tales and Internet Legends

1. The more heartburn you have, the more hair your baby will have.

True. Sounds like it came straight from the old wives’ archives, but it’s actually been backed up by research. Seems the hormones responsible for heartburn are the same ones that cause fetal hair to sprout. So pass the Tums, and the crème rinse.

2. The more you’re eating, the more likely you’ve got a boy bun in the oven.

True. Eating like a teenage boy? You may be having one—or, at least, a baby destined to become a teenage boy. Researchers have actually shown that women expecting a boy eat more calories, on average, than those expecting a girl—and yet they don’t gain more weight.

3. Expectant moms should skip the fish.

False. Fish is actually a fabulous source of lean baby-building protein—and it’s also a wonderful source of the omega-3 fatty acids that are so vital to a baby’s brain development, particularly in the third trimester when that brain is growing overtime. But it’s important to fish selectively—skip the high-mercury fish, such as swordfish, tilefish, and fresh tuna, and go fish for salmon, herring, sardines, and anchovies, tilapia, sole, flounder, and seafood of all varieties, just make sure it’s all cooked through.

4. Pregnancy’s a time to slack off at the gym.

Sorry, but false. Doctors actually recommend that most women get a half an hour of exercise a day—on most (if not all) days. And most exercise routines are either appropriate for pregnancy, or can be made pregnancy appropriate—even long distance running if you’re a serious athlete and you’ve been green lighted by your practitioner. Exercise not only helps keep you in shape during pregnancy—and get you in shape for the marathon of childbirth—but boosts energy, helps regulate mood swings, even keeps headaches and digestive symptoms in check. Just get the go-ahead from your practitioner before you begin or continue any exercise program.

5. As you gain weight, you lose brain cells.

True, well, sort of. The pregnant brain actually does shrink—an average of about 8%, resulting in the oh-so-common pregnancy forgetfulness affectionately referred to as “placenta brain”, that frustrating mental fogginess that leads you to lose your cell phone, lock your keys in the house, miss appointments, and makes you feel like you’re losing your mind. Fortunately, your brain will plump back up nicely after delivery.

6. Pregnancy means pulling the plug on the coffee pot.

False. You won’t have to surrender your Starbucks card altogether, but may have to pull it out less often. A two-cup a day habit, or the equivalent of about 200 mg. of caffeine, is considered safe to continue—and you may save yourself a lot of headaches if you opt not to cut caffeine out altogether. Keep in mind that size matters—a cup of regular brewed coffee counts as a serving, which means you can take two (preferably with plenty of milk), while a single venti latte will likely put you way over the top.

7. You can tell whether you’re having a boy or a girl just by counting heartbeats.

False. I actually even heard this from my OB, believe it or not – though I think, or hope, his prediction was just playful. He was wrong anyway—predicted my son was a daughter. But you’ve probably heard this before, too—a faster heart rate and you’re likely carrying a girl, a slower one means you’ve got a boy on board. Like most predictions about a baby’s sex that aren’t based on ultrasound or chromosomal analysis, it’s only likely to be accurate about 50% of the time.

8. The increase in multiples is due to the increase in fertility treatments.

True, but not the whole story. Moms who become pregnant using assisted reproductive treatments are much more likely to net twins and more—but there are other, more surprising, explanations for this recent baby-baby boom. Older moms are actually more likely to conceive twins even if they don’t receive fertility treatments. That’s because older moms release eggs more erratically—maybe one egg one month, no eggs the next, two the month after. And two eggs results in two babies—fraternal twins. Another suggested explanation—obese moms are more likely to deliver twins, and obesity is on the rise, boosting that baby-baby boom still more.

9. When dads gain weight and crave ice cream, it’s all in their heads.

False. Women may have a corner on the pregnancy market, but they don’t have the monopoly on pregnancy symptoms. Dads can suffer from just about every symptom in the book, from morning queasies to food cravings, mood swings to weight gain. And while sympathy does play a role, so do hormones. Believe it or not, fathers experience fluctuations in hormone levels—a rise in female sex hormones, a drop in testosterone—while their partners are expecting. Not enough to grow breasts or anything, but enough to send them running to the toilet – or to the freezer for a half gallon of Rocky Road.

10. Having sex can bring on labor when you’re due.

False. You can have fun trying (or not—sometimes sex is too much like hard work in the ninth or tenth month). But studies haven’t backed up the theory that sex – or more specifically, the prostaglandins in sperm—can get the labor party started unless conditions are really ripe (as in, baby’s ready to roll anyway). In fact, some research has shown that women who have sex late in pregnancy are more likely to carry to term.


Heidi Murkoff is the author of What to Expect When You’re Expecting, the go-to pregnancy guide for nearly 15 million parents-to-be. More information is available at .

What to Expect When You’re Expecting is available at most bookstores for $14.95.

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