All those old wives’ tales

Learn more about myths and misconceptions in pregnancy

Updated - November 17, 2021 06:54 am IST

Published - September 10, 2009 08:26 pm IST

Tummy of a Pregnant Woman --- Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis NICAID:110716034

Tummy of a Pregnant Woman --- Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis NICAID:110716034

Myths in the second and third trimesters

Lifting your arms over your head can cause the umbilical cord to wrap around the baby’s neck. - Not true!

Sewing and stitching during the pregnancy will cause the baby to have birth defects. - Not true!

You should never sleep on your back. - Not true! In the last few weeks of pregnancy, there is no comfortable position for sleeping. The weight of the baby also makes it difficult to sleep flat on your back. However, when your back is hurting, it sometimes feels comfortable to sleep on your back.

If you have high blood pressure or the water around the baby is marginally decreased, your obstetrician may ask you to sleep mostly on your sides. This helps by increasing the blood flow to the baby. If your obstetrician has not given you any particular reason for sleeping on your sides, there is no harm in sleeping flat on your back from time to time.

Turning from side to side while lying down may cause the baby to suffocate or will cause the cord to wrap around the baby’s neck. - Not true!

One of the old wives’ tales is that when you want to turn from side to side while you are sleeping, you should first sit up. This is absolutely unnecessary.

Avoid sex and exercise during pregnancy. - Not true!

Unless you have had a complication for which your obstetrician has asked you to avoid intercourse or exercise, there is no need to avoid sex or exercise.

You must have intercourse to ensure a normal delivery. - Not true!

Sometimes, a woman may be too uncomfortable to have intercourse in the last few weeks of pregnancy.

If you sweep and swab and do heavy physical labour during your pregnancy, you can avoid a caesarean. - Not true!

Just be active; it is important in any pregnancy.

You should not travel in the ‘even’ months of pregnancy i.e. 6th month or 8th month. - Not true!

Actually it does not matter which month you travel in. If you are going elsewhere for your delivery, then make sure you travel before 34 weeks of pregnancy. Medically, we know that some complications of pregnancy are more common after 34 weeks, so it is better to be under the supervision of the obstetrician who is going to deliver you.

You should eat plenty of ghee so that the delivery is easy. Ghee will act as a lubricant! - Not true!

As mentioned earlier, ghee is a saturated fat that only adds on unnecessary weight.

You must drink barley water to decrease the swelling in your feet. - Not true!

It is normal to retain water in pregnancy. You will find that your feet swell up as the pregnancy progresses. Your face and fingers may also be swollen. As long as your blood pressure is staying normal, there is no cause for concern.

Myths after delivery

After a delivery, you should avoid certain foods that are ‘hot’ or ‘cold’. - Not true! In Indian food culture, vegetables like brinjal are supposed to be ‘hot’, and ladies’ fingers and some fruits are supposed to be ‘cold’. This has no basis in science. You should eat a balanced diet and avoid unnecessary calories. Similarly, some people wrongly advise a newly delivered woman to avoid potatoes and other root vegetables.

Eating ‘paan’ (betel leaf) is good for digestion and provides calcium for the breast-feeding mother. - Not true! Betel leaf will only stain your teeth.

After a caesarean section, eating fish, or ‘cold’ food like curds (yoghurt) and fruit juice can cause pus in the wound. - Not true! Bacteria, not food, cause infections.

You should not lift anything heavy for six months after a caesarean section. - Not true! You can gradually resume your activities and 3-4 weeks after the caesarean section, you can do all your normal work. You can lift anything heavy, six weeks after a caesarean section.

Modern technological myths

Radiation from computer and television screens can harm the baby. - Not true! There is nothing to worry about from the radiation emitted from a computer or a television. The amount of radiation is so negligible even a few inches from the screen, that it cannot cause any damage to cells.

(Second and concluding part)

(The author is a Chennai-based obstetrician and gynaecologist with a special interest in women’s health issues.)

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