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Misconceptions about pregnancy.

Pregnancy is a unique period that brings its share of surprises, some more pleasant than others. It is also the subject of many popular beliefs. Can a pregnant woman exercise? Is it advised against for her to sleep on her stomach? Here is an overview of common misconceptions about pregnancy.

Misconception #1: One should avoid engaging in sports when pregnant.

Quite the opposite, physical exercise during pregnancy is even recommended. Of course, it's important to listen to your body and engage in gentle sports that don't pose a risk of falling. Swimming, water aerobics, or yoga, for example, are excellent activities to increase flexibility and alleviate back pain. Moreover, a half-hour walk per day is recommended during pregnancy.

Misconception #2: Air travel is prohibited during pregnancy.

This is incorrect up until the 36th week of pregnancy (in the absence of complications) or the 32nd week if the expectant mother is carrying twins. This timeframe can slightly vary from one airline to another. Moreover, some require a signed medical opinion. To travel with peace of mind, do not hesitate to wear compression stockings to avoid problems with heavy legs and generally favor loose clothing. Finally, it is recommended for pregnant women to occasionally stand up on the plane to walk and stretch their legs, as they are at a higher risk of developing deep vein thrombosis, which corresponds to the formation of blood clots.

Misconception #3: Wearing a seatbelt is dangerous for the baby.

This is a common misconception. The baby is in no way compressed by the seatbelt, as it is safely protected within the amniotic sac. Furthermore, numerous studies have addressed this issue and have found that, even at low speeds, the risks to the baby are significantly higher in the event of an accident without a seatbelt than with one. Therefore, it is crucial for the safety of the pregnant woman and her child to properly wear her seatbelt.

Misconception #4: The shape of the mother's belly indicates the sex of the child.

It is often said that a pointed belly indicates the birth of a boy. In fact, there is no connection between the shape of a pregnant woman's belly and the sex of the child she is expecting. While it would be convenient, the shape of the belly is actually due to 4 factors: the natural curvature of the mother, the elasticity of her skin, the morphology of her pelvis, and the position of the fetus in her uterus.

Misconception #5: Having sexual intercourse during pregnancy is dangerous and can trigger labor.

This is incorrect. When pregnancy progresses without complications, sexual intercourse is safe. Indeed, the potential uterine contractions that an orgasm may trigger are not sufficient to induce premature labor or a miscarriage. Some people also worry that the prostaglandins found in semen could trigger labor. Rest assured, the fact that the cervix is closed prevents the semen from accessing it. Lastly, it's worth noting that during penetrative sexual intercourse, the penis does not touch the baby, who is well protected by the amniotic membranes.

Misconception #6: You need to eat for two during pregnancy.

One should rather eat twice as well during pregnancy, which is a very exhausting period for the expectant mother. Therefore, adopt a varied and balanced diet when you are pregnant and listen to yourself, as well as your appetite, while avoiding excesses. For your information, it is often recommended for pregnant women to consume products rich in vitamins B, D, calcium, and iron, which allow you to replenish your energy and contribute positively to the baby's development.

Misconception #7: Sleeping on the stomach is dangerous for the baby.

Fortunately, nature is well designed and the baby is well protected by the amniotic sac. Therefore, you can sleep on your stomach without risk. However, as the uterus begins to expand, this position often becomes quite uncomfortable.

Misconception #8: Breastfeeding is a reliable method of contraception.

This is both true and false. The Lactational Amenorrhea Method (LAM) indeed relies on the fact that prolactin, the hormone responsible for the production of breast milk, blocks ovulation for the 6 months following childbirth. However, it requires the following conditions to be met: exclusive breastfeeding, day and night, 6 to 10 feedings per day, no more than 4 hours between each breastfeeding, and persistent amenorrhea. If all these conditions are met, the effectiveness of contraception is estimated to be about 98%. However, this method is quite uncertain and it is not recommended to use it to prevent the birth of a future child.

Misconception #9: Only brunette women can get melasma during pregnancy.

Indeed, women with darker skin are at a higher risk of developing a pregnancy mask due to the type of melanin they produce, however, all women can experience hyperpigmentation during their pregnancy, regardless of their skin tone. That's why it's crucial to properly protect oneself from the sun when pregnant.

Misconception #10: Cravings during pregnancy cause birthmarks.

This notion is without scientific basis. It sometimes happens that under the influence of hormones, food tastes and cravings change. However, whether you follow these cravings or not, it will have no influence on the occurrence or non-occurrence of angiomas, nevi, or other spots on your baby.

Misconception #11: A tattoo on the lower back can compromise an epidural.

This is partly true. Some anesthesiologists refuse to administer an epidural if the area to be injected is covered by a tattoo, fearing ink infiltration. However, according to the French Society of Anesthesia and Resuscitation (SFAR), a lower back tattoo should not be a deterrent to epidural analgesia. Therefore, if you are considering this procedure and have a tattoo in that area, consult in advance with the specialist who will be in charge of the operation.

Misconception #12: A pregnant woman cannot eat raw foods.

True and False. At the beginning of your pregnancy, you will undergo a series of blood tests to determine whether or not you are immune to certain bacterial infections such as toxoplasmosis, listeriosis... If not, you will need to pay close attention to your diet. Raw meats, fish, vegetables, and unpasteurized cheeses will then be discouraged.

Misconception #13: Without stretch mark cream, pregnancy stretch marks are inevitable.

This is incorrect. The formation of stretch marks depends on many factors, such as the natural elasticity of a pregnant woman's skin, her stress level, the speed of her weight gain... While the application of a stretch mark cream can help prevent them, it is by no means a guarantee. Some women do not develop stretch marks during their pregnancy without applying any cream, while others use it daily and are still affected.

Misconception #14: Breastfeeding leads to breast sagging.

This is partly true, but breastfeeding is not the only culprit. All the weight fluctuations and strains that the breasts undergo during pregnancy and breastfeeding can potentially weaken the tissues and alter their firmness. The breasts can then sag as a result of all the stresses they have endured.

Misconception #15: There are more births on full moon nights.

This is solely a common belief. A number of scientific studies have investigated this phenomenon and all have arrived at the same conclusion: there is no link between the phase of the moon and the number of births.

Sources

  • GALVIN S. & al. The effect of the lunar cycle on frequency of births and birth complications. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology (2005).

  • HOLDER K. & al. Contraception and breastfeeding. Clinical Obstetrics and Gynecology (2015).

  • DEMETRIADES D. & al. The impact of seat belt use in pregnancy on injuries and outcomes after motor vehicle collisions. Journal of Surgical Research (2020).

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