Debunking Pregnancy Myths
As soon as you start to tell people you’re pregnant, you’re likely to get all kinds of unsolicited advice with a healthy dose of old wives’ tales. You can take most of the latter with a grain of salt -- there’s no scientific evidence that says craving sweets or severe morning sickness means you’re having a girl, for instance. But some of the other advice pertains to what is and isn’t safe during pregnancy -- and therein lie several myths in need of debunking.
Perhaps you’ve read by now that you’re supposed to avoid hot tubs and saunas while pregnant. Not necessarily, says our Clinical Director Anne Willits. Your body does a pretty remarkable job of regulating itself -- and keeping your baby and uterus at an optimal temperature. Feel free to use hot tubs, Willits says, just get out if you feel too hot, or like you’re getting faint.
This is like hot tubs -- it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to raise your body temperature enough to have an effect on your growing baby. What’s more, vigorous exercise has also proven to be good for pregnant women, not least because women who exercise regularly throughout pregnancy often have shorter labor times. Same rules apply as the hot tub -- take a break if you’re getting too hot. And maybe avoid grueling cardio in hot weather.
A lot of literature out there recommends women start sleeping on their sides (and specifically their left sides) at the outset of the second trimester. The logic here is that your growing belly puts pressure on essential veins and arteries, thus inhibiting blood flow to your heart and brain; sleeping on your left side promotes the best circulation. Maybe so, but you shouldn’t freak if you wake up on your back well into your second or even third pregnancy -- because this is one of those things that differs for everyone. Some women’s bodies never have trouble regulating that blood flow, even after the veins are compressed. Some women feel it right away. If you’re waking up on your back, your circulation isn’t being inhibited. And as for left versus right, it really doesn’t make too much difference, says Willits.
Sushi and deli meat
Have you been warned off sushi and deli meat by well-meaning friends and relatives? Sushi, in particular, is not much cause for concern -- the issue there is worms, which are killed by heat or flash-freezing -- and virtually all purveyors flash-freeze their catch these days. Avoid high mercury fish like tuna, and you can keep on eating sushi, at least from reputable spots (you might want to avoid the grab-and-go clamshells sitting in a cold case all day). Deli meat is trickier -- the worry there is listeria; pregnant women are more susceptible to this rare illness because their immune systems are down. But listeria can live in a lot of things -- recalls in recent years have included lettuce and ice cream. If you’re comfortable with a minute risk, it’s more effective to keep an ear out for outbreaks while continuing to enjoy an occasional turkey sandwich -- you can also heat your deli meats to steaming if you’re worried.
Luckily, cautions about long-distance travel seem to be fading; in fact, the babymoon is fast becoming a rite of passage. The Hygge rule of thumb is that you can travel up to 36 weeks -- which is when most airlines want a doctor’s note before you fly, anyway -- and after for emergencies, although you’ll want to bring your medical records along on those late-late trips because there’s a higher chance you’ll be delivering your baby at your destination. Pregnant women have a slightly elevated risk of blood clots, so make sure you stand up and move around frequently on flights -- or write the ABCs with your feet, to keep your blood pumping. As for destinations, it’s best to avoid Zika and Malaria zones while pregnant -- and you might want to take extra precautions avoiding potential food- and water-borne diseases.
Here’s some good news for the coffee fiends among us: You don’t have to completely give up caffeine. While excessive caffeine has been linked to low birthweight and premature birth, it’s perfectly safe to drink up to 200 milligrams per day throughout your pregnancy. That’s equivalent to a cup of coffee -- maybe not the half-pot you need some days, but better than nothing.
Yeah, there’s a lot of physical stuff going on, but pregnancy is the happiest time in a woman’s life, right? Not necessarily. Most women are aware of the possibility of postpartum anxiety and depression, but they might not realize that the baby blues can hit during pregnancy, as well. Your provider will likely check in on your mental health a few times throughout your pregnancy, but know that if you’re feeling anxious or down, it’s completely normal -- and something you’ll want to share with your care team so you can get out in front of it. Beyond mental health issues that might require medical treatment, pregnancy can bring all kinds of stresses, from worries about sharing your news to financial tension to mixed emotions over your changing identity to a surge in hormones simply making your feelings -- good and bad -- operate at a higher frequency. Give yourself grace no matter the state of your mental health, and recognize that pregnancy, just like every other stage of life, has its ups and downs.
And if this isn’t the happiest, glowiest time in your life and actually just something you’d rather get through and be done with? That’s okay. A lot of women feel that way. And you might find good support if you find a group of other mothers-to-be who are willing to share their highs and lows, too. We offer centered (group-oriented) care at Hygge, which means you can choose to do your appointments alongside a group of women at your same stage of pregnancy. Each appointment includes a private check-up of your vitals, and then group education related to the stage of pregnancy you’re in. We also offer community support from pre-conception through early parenthood -- from our free first trimester class to childbirth prep to Baby Cafe, a lactation support group. And we have a Family Services Coordinator on staff who can help you connect with other resources to get you the specific help that you need.