True or False? 20 Common Myths About Pregnancy

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Forming a new human being is the most complicated thing a person can do without really having to think about it. But that doesn’t mean women don’t fret over it.

So three Californian OB/GYNs — tired of getting called at 3 a.m. by frantic pregnant women who had woken up to find themselves sleeping on their backs or who had eaten raw meat and wanted to get their stomachs pumped (yes, those are two real examples) — decided to write a book: The Mommy Docs Ultimate Guide to Pregnancy and Birth.

Drs. Yvonne Bohn, Allison Hill and Alane Park also host a TV show called “Deliver Me” on Discovery, and they’ve all gestated children — which gives them at least one advantage over Dr. Spock. We asked them to deconstruct the most common myths about pregnancy, some of which are propagated in extremely popular and well-regarded pregnancy books. Consider it our Mother’s Day present to moms-to-be.

Myth #1: Cocoa butter prevents stretch marks. False. In fact using cocoa butter makes women’s skin more sensitive, and some women have allergic reactions to it. Dr. Park treated one woman who came in with bright pink circles on her breasts. She couldn’t figure out why, until the patient copped to using cocoa butter to try to keep her breasts perky.

Myth #2: You can’t fly during your first or last trimester. Nope. False again. You can fly whenever you want. Some airlines won’t let you on the plane in your last trimester, but that has more to do with fears that you’ll go into labor and force the plane to land or spoil the upholstery.

Myth #3: You can’t pet your cat during pregnancy. False. However, you shouldn’t change your cat’s litter box during pregnancy because of the risk of toxoplasmosis from the dookies. And also, because, dammit, you’re growing a human being, and do you have to everything?

(More on The Science of Cat Ladies: The Bond Between Women and Cats Is Real)

Myth #4: You shouldn’t eat smoked salmon while pregnant. False. Salmon is good for mothers-to-be; it’s high in omega-3 fatty acids like DHA, which studies show have a variety of benefits for pregnant women and their fetuses, and salmon is a fresh water fish, so the likelihood of mercury poisoning is low.

Myth #5: You can’t eat sushi. False. Sushi is permissible except for mackerel, shark, tilefish and swordfish. And don’t eat too much tuna — no more than 12. oz (about two maki, or rolls) per week.

(More on Fish Oil in Pregnancy May Help Prevent Postpartum Depression)

Myth #6: No hot dogs either? False. Hot dogs are also fine to eat, as long as they’re well-cooked.

Myth #7: Pregnant women should keep away from polished furniture. So false. Dr. Bohn once treated a woman who was nervous about sitting on her couch, because of the furniture polish fumes. Sheesh.

Myth #8: Dying your hair is harmful for Baby. Wrong again. False. (Damn, I fell for that one too.)

(More on Exposure to Pesticides in Pregnancy Can Lower Children’s IQ)

Myths #9, 10 and 11: You shouldn’t have sex/lift your hands over your head/touch your toes while pregnant: All false (and a little bit weird), unless you have a specific medical condition and your doctor warns you against it.

Myth #12: You shouldn’t take hot baths while pregnant. True, actually. You should avoid saunas, Jacuzzis or anything that raises your body temperature over 102 degrees.

Myth #13: You shouldn’t drink coffee while pregnant. False. Don’t go nuts, but a cup a day won’t hurt junior.

Myth #14: You should abstain from alcohol during pregnancy. True, with a question mark. The American College of Obstetricians, along with all other American health authorities, advise women to stay on the wagon, but at least one big British study recently suggested that two drinks a week during pregnancy might not do harm.

(More on Study O.K.’s Light Drinking During Pregnancy. Too Good to Be True?)

Myth #15: Pregnant women should sleep on their left side. False. That’s going to be hard on the old left hip. Just get whatever sleep you can. The mommy docs also say the myth about expectant moms avoiding back-sleeping is rubbish.

Myth #16: The baby’s position in the womb can tell you its sex. False. Also, the line on the skin stretching below the navel is no clue to whether your baby’s a boy or girl. You just can’t tell from outside the womb. On the upside, if you do try, you’ve got a 50% shot of getting it right.

Myth #17: Walking makes labor go faster. False. It might make you feel better but there’s no activity that’s going to bring on labor, sorry. (Dr. Bohn has treated women who swear by a certain restaurant’s salad in Los Angeles. Also false, as is the old cod liver-oil myth.)

(More on Exercise in Pregnancy Means Healthier Heart for Baby)

Myth #18: Pregnant women should eat for two. Nu-unh. False. Carrying a baby actually only requires 300 extra calories a day. So technically you should be eating for about one and a fifth. If you do eat for two, you’ll end up with a bigger baby, which reminds the mommy docs of another fable…

Myth #19: A bigger baby is a better baby. False. The average baby weighs about 7.5 lbs. Babies that are much bigger than that are more likely to suffer from diabetes and obesity in later life.

(More on Can a Mother’s Pregnancy Diet Influence Her Child’s Future Weight?)

Myth #20: Drinking dark beer helps the milk come in. Nope. False. It might help the mother relax, though, which does help with milk letdown (but it has nothing to do with the barley in the beer). Also, a beer is great for Mom’s mental well-being.

And, finally, going outside when you’re pregnant during an eclipse will not give your baby a cleft palate. But you probably already knew that.

Related Links:

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Myth 19 is bilarky. My daughter was 8 lbs 9 ounces because she was 17 inches! She's a skinnny bean pole rail of  a 7 year old and diabetes is a non-issue. 

Nothing worse than generalizations 


This is a good article, but the tone of mockery ("sheesh") doesn't help women who are worried about, say, furniture polish. Pregnancy can be an anxious time for many women, and pregnant women who worry about hair dyes or hot dogs should know that they can ask their doctors questions about these items - or anything else that concerns them - and be listened to. Mocking them for these fears is certainly not helpful, and can be harmful to those who are vulnerable to depression.  


Myth #20 is misleading. Brewer's yeast is often used to increase milk supply.  In addition, oatmeal helps as well.  Therefore, Oatmeal Stout is an excellent beer to help with milk production.  I know from personal experience (Holy engorged post-beer boobs, Batman!) and know I'm not the only one via anecdotal evidence at my new moms group.  Dark beer may not bring in your milk, but it does help with milk production.


Not all sushi is raw.


Why is this horribly erroneous article still up? It is well documented that pregnant women should NOT be eating raw sushi, sleep on their backs past 20 weeks or eat smoked salmon, which is uncooked. 

I am astounded at TIME's irresponsibility and negligence.


Japanese women eat sushi ALL the time and their babies turn out OK. Also native women have been eating smoke salmon for hundreds of years, and guess what? Their babies turned out OK too!


@AmandaFlynn True. It's all in the preparation--make sure the sushi you are eating is fresh and free from contaminants. Also there are sushi that aren't raw (which is better for avoiding risks of salmonella contamination.) Salmon is actually good for pregnant women to eat because of the omega 3 and low mercury (compared to other fish) content but it's recommended to be eaten only once a week


Your answer indicates that "salmon" is healthy: " Salmon is good for mothers-to-be; it’s high in omega-3 fatty acids like DHA, which studies show have a variety of benefits for pregnant women and their fetuses, and salmon is a fresh water fish, so the likelihood of mercury poisoning is low."

Your answer does not at all address the fact that the salmon is smoked. If you feel so strongly that smoked salmon is safe, please speak to the safety of the "smoked" preparation, sulfites, and that the salmon is not cooked and why these things are ok. We all know the health benefits of salmon cooked properly.


I mean nitrates and nitrites, not sulfites


@ChristineFusco Most sushi fish is frozen these days and the freezing process kills all parasites. Smoked salmon bad for you? Nah, that's a red herring, girl.


@ChristineFusco It was "well documented" for years that women shouldn't drink at all during pregnancy. That too, was a myth. What do you think women did for THOUSANDS of years when they didn't have the diet choices rich societies have now? Ridiculous. And no one that's 20+ weeks sleep on their backs anyway. I'm so tired of people dictating what other people should do with their own bodies. I'm craving tuna fish right now, and guess what, i'm gonna EAT IT!