Saturday, July 2, 2011

more on the truths & myths during pregnancy

I have previously written on the myths regarding the baby's gender. (read: boy or girl?)

Here are more facts and myths regarding pregnancy... which they say affects the health of the baby or hastens labor.

Fact or Myth

As soon as the word is out that you are pregnant, advice starts to flow, whether you have asked for it or not. Everyone from your Grandmother to the cashier at the grocery store will begin to tell you what you can and can't do, what you should and shouldn't do. Some of the things they tell you will be "secret" information, such as the sex of your child, or when your baby will be born. Some of that advice and information is wonderful and helpful. Some of it is not. Let's take a moment and try to sort out the fact from the myth.


Some Old Wives' Tales center around the health of the baby. The most common of these is about the umbilical cord.

MYTHIf the pregnant woman reaches her hands over her head, it will wrap the umbilical cord around the baby's neck.
FACT: There is nothing the pregnant woman can do to prevent a nuchal cord, or the umbilical cord wrapping around the baby's neck. This occurs earlier in pregnancy when the baby has plenty of room to move about. In fact, according to the March of Dimes, about 25% of babies are born with a loop of cord around their necks and rarely does it cause any problems. I was in a delivery the other day and the baby had three loops of cord around her neck and she was just fine.

The pregnant mother raising her arms does not contribute in any way to the movement of the baby or the position of the cord.

MYTHA pregnant woman shouldn't take baths because it can cause germs to be passed to the baby.
FACT: The cervix, or the opening of the uterus into the vagina is sealed during pregnancy with mucous. Also, the baby is protected in the amniotic sac which prevents any bacteria from entering. The vagina itself is a potential space, meaning it isn't open all the time, it stays collapsed until it needs to be open for a particular reason, so water doesn't enter the vagina during a bath anyway.

Bathing is a wonderful way for the pregnant woman not only to achieve cleanliness, but also to achieve relaxation. The warmth can relieve that lower backache that occurs in the third trimester. Caution should be taken during the first trimester that the temperature should not exceed 100 degrees.

MYTH: If you don't drink enough water, the baby will be dirty.
FACT: You do need to drink plenty of water during pregnancy, because it is very easy to become dehydrated, which can lead to preterm contractions. You should drink enough water each day to keep your urine a pale yellow. However, even becoming dehydrated will cause your baby to be dirty. This myth most likely came about from a baby which was born with meconium stained fluid. Meconium is the first bowel movement the baby passes. It is thick, dark-green and tarry-like. When mixed with amniotic fluid, it can create a thick green-pea like liquid which would cover the baby.

The body is an amazing thing. Most people don't realize it, but amniotic fluid actually replaces itself every three to four hours, even after the membranes are ruptured. That's why the water continues to leak and leak and leak! Baby drinks this fluid and also urinates into the fluid. So you affect the level of fluid and so does the baby.

MYTHIf a mother drinks too much coffee during pregnancy, baby will be born with light-brown birthmarks.
FACT: The exact cause of birthmarks is unknown. Birthmarks can't be prevented and they are not caused by anything the mother did or didn't do during pregnancy. They are not caused by something the mother ate. They are unrelated to trauma to the skin during childbirth. They are mostly harmless and many even go away on their own or shrink over time. Some birthmarks, however, can be associated with other health problems, so be sure to talk to your baby's doctor about your child's birthmarks.

This is always a particularly interesting topic for me, because I have a port-wine stain birthmark from the bottom of my foot to the top of my hip. I also have two cafe-au-lait stains which are smaller. I have had many opportunities in Labor and Delivery to reassure mothers who have just delivered babies with birthmarks, that their children will adapt well to their own personal "tatooes".


These Old Wives' Tales still abound, in fact I heard a Grandmother telling a patient one just the other day. The truth to all of these attempts to start labor is, if the cervix isn't ready, nothing will jump start labor. Yes, you may start some contractions, but remember, the definition of labor is not just having contractions.

As one old obstetrician said to me once, "You can't shake a good apple off the tree." If the cervix isn't ready to begin to dilate, all the things we try to do to make ourselves go into labor will not be affective to do so. If the cervix is ready, then some of these things may help push the cervix over the edge and the resulting contractions may actually stimulate labor. Sometimes however, intervention can cause more problems than it solves.

MYTHDrinking castor oil will put you into labor.
FACT: Castor oil will make you deliver something, but not necessarily a baby! Many women experience painful cramps, diarrhea and even vomiting using Castor oil and most don't go into labor.

MYTH: Eating _____ (fill in the blank here, Balsamic vinegar, spicy food, Mexican food, whatever the most recent myth food that is circulating around) will put you into labor.
FACT: There is no food out there that will absolutely put you into labor. Some foods may cause gastric distress which will result in diarrhea. This can cause some sympathetic uterine contractions, but not necessarily.

MYTH: You will go into labor during a full moon.
FACT: There are not more babies born during a full moon. We do see more patients during the period of a full moon, but we do not see more babies. We do however, see more patients with ruptured membranes during a time of sudden drop in barometric pressure!

MYTH: Having lots of sex will put you into labor.
FACT: Semen contains a prostaglandin which helps to soften the cervix and prepare it for labor. Orgasm in the mother can cause rhythmic contractions. Remember though, that labor is more than just having contractions.

If your health care provider has advised you to avoid intercourse, you would need to follow their advice.

MYTH: Nipple stimulation can put you into labor.
FACT: Nipple stimulation causes the brain to secret the hormone Oxytocin, which can indeed stimulate labor. However, the stimulation required is for several hours of more intense stimulation. It is also possible to cause over-stimulation, which could result in a contraction pattern which would promote a lack of oxygen to the baby.

MYTH: Walking will put you into labor.
FACT: Walking is perhaps the perfect exercise for the pregnant woman, but it will not put you into labor. If you are already in labor, it will make your labor more efficient, but it will not stimulate the beginning of labor.

MYTH: Accupressure/Acupuncture will induce labor.
FACT: There are two points on the body that can cause uterine contractions. If your cervix is not ready for labor however, these contractions will not dilate or efface the cervix.

The best advice for you is if you are told something from someone that is not a medical professional, or even that is, please discuss it with your health care provider. This is the person who knows all about yourmedical history and your particular obstetrical and medical situation. Your health care provider is the best person to give you advice concerning your pregnancy.

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