There are all sorts of ancient notions and outdated ideas out there about getting pregnant and what to do once you’re actually there. Here’s a bevy of beliefs that require debunking.
Myth #1: You won’t get pregnant if you have sex in a hot tub. The truth: Although a hot tub will lower a guy’s sperm count if he’s soaking for longer than 30 minutes, that is not an all-out guarantee that you’re both safe. Once sperm enter the vagina, the sperm cells will seek out the egg and hot water is not going to prevent that from happening. The external heat from the environment of the hot tub won’t be enough to prevent conception, either.
Myth #2: Experiencing stress during the pregnancy will have negative effects on the baby. The truth: Too much of anything, good or bad, will always be detrimental, and extreme levels of stress will release a plethora of problems such as elevated heart rate, inflammation and cortisol levels. However, a moderate level of stress does yield positive effects for the fetus that include things like accelerated development and the strengthening of the baby’s nervous system. In one study, it was revealed that women who underwent moderate stress while pregnant gave birth to babies with brains that processed information and stimuli more quickly than babies from mothers that didn’t experience the same levels of stress. The study followed the babies until they were toddlers and these 2-year olds had higher mental development scores and motor skills than their stress-free peers.
Myth #3: Wearing two condoms is better than just one. The truth: Putting two condoms on will more likely break one or both as the layering will cause folds that may rupture or tear during sex. This is why when a guy puts a condom on, it should cover his entire penis with minimal wrinkles. The exception to the wrinkle rule is the tip, which is the repository of semen – that part should be have little air so that at the moment of ejaculation, it inflates like a small bulb, catching the semen.
Myth #4: Developing conditions such as diabetes and obesity have everything to do with our lifestyle choices. The truth: Not only do our lifestyle choices matter; the lifestyle choices our mommies made while we were still buns in their ovens do, too. You’ve heard about ‘crack babies’ or children born addicted to crack cocaine because their moms used the substance while pregnant. Something as simple as low birth weight can have long-term consequences – it affects the blood vessels as the child grows older in a way that is akin to the effects of smoking. For every 2-pound decrease in birth weight, there is a reduction in blood vessel capacity that is equivalent to smoking a pack of cigarettes daily for four and a half years.
The opposite is just as bad – women who gain more than the recommended weight during pregnancy have up to four times the risk of their child becoming overweight as well. As if that wasn’t enough, the correlation extends well into the child’s adolescent years. Children born to mothers with normal weight are less likely to be overweight themselves and are capable of processing carbohydrates and fats, compared to siblings born to the same mother when she was overweight.
Myth #5: It’s okay to pack on the pounds because you’re eating for two anyway. The truth: According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the average woman with a normal weight prior to getting pregnant only needs an extra 300 calories a day for her baby. That’s a cup of rice and two small pieces of dried fish, or a banana slathered in peanut butter. A normal woman should only take in about 25-35 pounds during her pregnancy, and less if she’s overweight. Take note that it’s tough dropping the extra baggage gained after birth, and with every subsequent pregnancy, a woman’s tendency is to get heavier. Also, women who gain more than 50 pounds while carrying one fetus to term are at a higher risk for a C-section or a difficult normal birthing.
Myth #6: You should avoid fish while you’re pregnant. The truth: It’s not fish per se that’s bad – it’s mercury. For this reason, avoid fish such as king mackerel, shark, swordfish or tilefish. Raw fish (even sushi or sashimi) isn’t a good idea because it’s likely to contain parasites or bacteria. Cooked fish such as light tuna, salmon and shrimp are better alternatives and eating at least two servings of fish per week can be healthy for both mommy and baby. Fish contain lots of omega-3 fatty acids, which are crucial to the development of a child’s brain and vision. According to one study, children whose mothers ate twelve ounces of seafood a week during pregnancy had greater motor, social and communication skills than their peers, as well as higher verbal IQ.
Myth #7: Cats are bad for pregnant women. The truth: It is quite acceptable to pet your cat while pregnant, so long as Mr. Cuddles has had all his shots. Do keep your cat’s claws trimmed, though, as cat scratch fever is not a good thing to have while pregnant. Make sure that your hubby or your household helper takes care of the litter box – toxoplasmosis can come out of kitty fecal matter and that’s not a fun thing to have either.
Myth #8: You become the epitome of bliss during pregnancy. The truth: Psychiatrists assert that pregnant women are just as likely to suffer from mood disorders as other women – about 20 percent of women worldwide are prone to bouts of depression or anxiety. This is something you have to watch out for as depression during pregnancy can lead to low birth weight or even premature delivery – talk to your obstetrician if you think you’re a likely candidate. You can seek out counseling or, if it’s a hormonal or biological reason, your doctor can prescribe antidepressants that won’t interfere with your pregnancy.
Myth #9: Pregnant women should not hit the gym. The truth: Consult your doctor first if the pregnancy is difficult – in certain cases, this is true for women who have difficulty conceiving or have certain health problems. However, for most normal pregnancies, research shows that women who are physically active have slower and more variable heart rates than more sedentary expectant mothers – a good sign of cardiovascular health. Babies of practitioners of tae-bo, pilates, yoga and pole dancing have bigger brains on the average and may become more intelligent as adults.