Pregnancy myth-buster

From your mother-in-law to the stranger on the elevator, everyone is ready to share their wisdom about what to do – or what not to do – now that you’re pregnant

To discern useful advice from fictional myths, we talked with two experts: Sabina Dambrauskas, chairperson for the Illinois Chapter of the American College of Nurse Midwives, and Dr. John Hobbs, obstetrician at Northwestern Memorial’s Prentice Women’s Hospital.

1. Don’t bathe in hot tubs

True. The high temperatures in a hot tub can increase the thermal temperature of the fetus, Hobbs says. But the other problem is that pregnant women can become severely dehydrated long before they realize it. Women can indulge in warm water baths unless their water has broken.

2. Always wear a bra.

True. Wearing a bra during pregnancy can not only help with soreness, it may reduce the sagging effects of gravity after delivery. The extra weight of breasts preparing for nursing can compromise the tissue around the breast, Hobbs says, and a supportive bra can protect that tissue.

3. Don’t eat soft cheese such as Brie, feta or queso blanco.

Maybe. Soft cheeses made with unpasteurized milk may harbor Listeria, bacteria that can be deadly for unborn babies. But cheeses made with pasteurized milk are considered safe. Most cheeses sold in the U.S. come from pasteurized milk, but be sure to check the label.

4. Avoid coffee or other caffeinated drinks.

False.Drinking up to three cups of coffee per day has no impact on the fetus, Dambrauskas says. The initial concern about caffeinated drinks was based on early studies that followed women who drank a lot of coffee, but also smoked. “Over time we’ve come to realize that the problems came from the smoking and other unhealthy behaviors, rather than the coffee,” she says.

5: There’s no need to change your exercise routine while pregnant.

False. While exercise is essential to a health pregnancy, Dambrauskas says, some common-sense precautions should be taken. First, try to maintain a heart rate under 160 beats per minute and make sure you don’t become overheated.

Don’t lie flat after about 16 weeks of pregnancy, as this can put undue pressure on your blood vessels.

Finally, avoid exercises that require a great deal of balance, such as biking, later in pregnancy. Dambrauskas cites research that found women in their third trimester have more home accidents than any other time in life because their sense of balance has been altered by their ever-growing occupant.

6: Lifting your arms over your head causes the umbilical cord to wrap around the baby.

False, false, false, says Hobbs. “That one has been around for a while and it’s absolutely not true,” he said.

And while we’re at it, the only way to predict the sex of a baby is through diagnostic tests, not whether you have heartburn or carry the baby low. “Tell your mother-in-law to buy yellow, it works no matter what,” Hobbs says.

Lisa Applegate is a Chicago mom and freelance writer who specializes in health issues.

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