Fact vs. Fiction: Common Pregnancy Myths Debunked

By Jacquelyne Froeber

Ever heard the rumor that you can’t exercise while pregnant? Or how about that sex will hurt your unborn baby? If so, you’re not the only one: It turns out there are many myths about what women can and can’t do during pregnancy.

We asked Dr. Patrick S. Ramsey, MD, director of maternal transport and outreach at University Health System/UT Health San Antonio, to separate fact from fiction in the common pregnancy myths below.

Myth: You can’t travel when you’re expecting.

Truth: Don’t put that babymoon on hold: According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), low-risk expectant mothers with no history of preterm birth can travel up to 36 weeks into their pregnancies.

“When going on a long trip — a week or so — I recommend taking copies of your last doctor visit and prenatal lab history,” Dr. Ramsey says.

For air travel, when possible, he suggests the cautionary measure of getting up and walking around hourly to prevent blood clots, and if it’s a particularly long flight, taking a baby aspirin the day before, the day of and the day after.

Myth: You’ll have to say goodbye to coffee during pregnancy.

Truth: Java junkies can rejoice (a little), as most experts agree that up to one 12-ounce cup of coffee per day is safe. According to ACOG, links between caffeine and miscarriage are unclear.

Myth: Pregnant women shouldn’t exercise.

Truth: “Woman shouldn’t feel like they shouldn’t be active,” Dr. Ramsey says. “For women who may have had a miscarriage or are worried that being active will cause a problem — be very reassured that you should be active and out doing things. It’s very important.”

Although skiing, horseback riding, scuba diving and hot yoga are on the “nope” list, ACOG actually recommends thirty minutes of moderate exercise, five days per week. Exercise during pregnancy may help:

  • Reduce back pain
  • Ease constipation
  • Decrease risk of gestational diabetes and preeclampsia
  • Promote healthy weight-gain during pregnancy
  • Improve overall fitness
  • Strengthen heart and blood vessels

If you’re new to exercise, no worries. Start out slow and work your way up. A good fitness measure: A moderate exercise means you can talk, but can’t sing.

Try these recommended activities:

  • Swimming: It’s non-weight bearing, which helps avoid injury or strain.
  • Brisk walking: This works out the whole body and is easy on muscles and joints.
  • Modified yoga: The practice reduces stress, focuses breathing and improves flexibility.

Another fitness rule: Don’t push it while pregnant. “If you haven’t run a marathon, you shouldn’t start training now,” Dr. Ramsey says.

Myth: Sex can hurt your unborn baby.

Truth: A healthy, intimate relationship with your partner is an important factor to the overall wellness of your family. “There is a fear of sex during pregnancy and that it may be harmful to the baby for some reason, but that is not the case,” Dr. Ramsey says. “Providers need to help provide education to help both partners overcome any concerns.”

Additionally, sex helps decrease stress for both partners. Win-win.

Myth: Expectant mothers need omega-3 supplements.

Truth: Researchers have found that omega-3 fatty acids — a type of fat found in fish — may be important to brain development before and after birth.

The data, however, is mixed, and there are no clear guidelines for omega-3 fatty acids, so normal pregnant women with no high-risk factors shouldn’t feel obligated to add a supplement. “But if your insurance company pays for it, there’s no harm in taking it,” Dr. Ramsey says.

University Health System offers comprehensive maternity services including routine check-ups, care for high-risk pregnancies, the area’s only dedicated OB/GYN emergency room, breastfeeding support and more.

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