I remember the first-time hubby and I decided to start a family. We had just married and moved interstate, and felt we were ready to start this new chapter of our lives. 

I was 25 and had no idea what to expect, so like most women I went out and sourced every pregnancy book I could get my hands on and soaked up every fact I could about all things pregnant. 

After one month of ‘let’s see what happens’ we didn’t really expect anything. We had a hectic previous 12 months of wedding preparations, work, David’s crazy junior doctor hours, actually getting married then moving up the coast, so naturally I was expecting it to take a while for my body to fall pregnant. 

Luckily though, we nailed it on the first go and 9 months later our darling Julianna joined us. 

But along with falling pregnant straight away, there was something else that surprised me. The myths and old wives tales surrounding pregnancy. 

Before getting knocked up I hadn’t really tapped into the whole pregnancy and parenting realm/ black hole online. I knew I always wanted children, and a lot of them, but that was about it. Suffice to say I was in shock when I started hearing and reading about tales from the parenting frontline.

Who knew that being pregnant could induce so many unnecessary worries?
Don’t waste hours scouring the internet for answers. Instead, save your time and sanity by talking to your doctor, midwife or a trustworthy friend!

I had so many questions relating to pregnancy myths I’d heard, while others were old wives tales I’d read about that sounded a bit odd but still piqued my curiosity.

Is it ok to eat nuts while you’re pregnant – your baby can’t really have an anaphylactic shock in utero can it? Does heartburn really mean you’re having a boy? Or a baby with a full head of hair? And how much truth is in the one about spicy foods kickstarting labour? And we’ve all heard the myth about the positioning of the baby – if you’re carrying your baby up high does this actually mean you’re having a girl?

Argh!!! With all these questions swirling around my newly pregnant head you can imagine the confusion and panic that set it. I felt like I was already a bad mum because I was using beauty products like fake tan, getting my hair done every couple of months, and I even enjoyed the occasional kebab. So, the only thing that calmed my nerves, and my conscience, was talking to hubby about these pregnancy myths and settle them once and for all.

David was very helpful in answering my many questions regarding pregnancy myths and old wives tales (and boy did I have some doozies!). So much so I have split this article into two posts. Part one is below, while part 2 will be on the blog in the next few days.

Dr Addenbrooke sheds some light on common pregnancy myths

Does standing on your head straight after sex increase your chances of falling pregnant?

Probably not… The cervix in most women naturally points down into the back of your vagina when you are lying flat. The vagina runs at a downward angle when you are lying down as well, towards your tailbone. The vagina is also what is known in medical books as a “potential space”, in other words, it only has space in it when it is being filled by something… So after sex, the semen is naturally brought close to the cervix by the geometry of the way the vagina is built. If you stand on your head it may actually alter the way the uterus and cervix are tipped, and probably won’t increase conception odds at all. It is probably more practical to stay lying down for a while to prevent the semen from dropping lower towards the opening of the vagina after sex. SO if you typically get up pretty quick to tidy up in the bathroom, or empty your bladder (not a bad idea to prevent UTIs), it may be better to wait a while if you are hoping to get pregnant.

There is a bit more to it… The sperm doesn’t only have to get on the cervix, from there it has about 15cm to go before it gets to the end of the Fallopian tube, where fertilisation of the egg occurs. This mostly occurs by a negative pressure in the uterus, aided by chemical signals between the womb and the sperm. The sperm swimming helps, but the little guys wouldn’t be able to make it all that way on their own. When you ovulate, a small mucous plug from the cervix releases, which is a little like opening the door to let them in. Some scientists theorise that orgasm can increase uptake of sperm into the uterus by the negative pressure created from muscular contractions during climax.

Healthy sperm can live for up to 4 or 5 days in your reproductive tract waiting for an egg, but mostly within the uterus and tubes, not so much in the vagina itself.

Should you really be eating for two while pregnant?

No. Dieticians have formulas for the exact amount of calorie intake that you should increase as the pregnancy progresses, but generally by the end of the pregnancy you should be eating for 1 and 1/5. Don’t sweat it too much though and eat to normal hunger and keep a good balance of nutrition and or a pregnancy multi to help keep up the vital components. Healthy weight gain depends on your starting weight, but 8-12kg total is a reasonable guide for average weight women (remember this includes important things like extra blood and breast tissue, and is not all going to your thighs…).

Unfortunately the whole notion of ‘eating for two’ is just a pregnancy myth, damn it!

Do I have to steer clear of hot baths while pregnant?

Kind of… There is some evidence that a significant increase in the core body temperature of the women during pregnancy can link with certain birth defects and cerebral palsy at certain periods of fetal development. A lot of this is based on high fevers due to sickness, and a reason it is important to monitor and treat for fever if you become unwell with the flu or other bugs during pregnancy.

The temperature required in a bath to raise your core body temperature is pretty hot (more than most would find comfortable). It is fine to have a warm bath (not scalding) during pregnancy, but try to avoid getting to the type of heat that causes a “rosy glow”. For this reason, saunas are also out. Hot tubs are probably fine but better avoided for long stints, partially for the heat thing, but also maybe in case of bacteria or poorly placed jets?… Probably not.

Does morning sickness mean there’s something wrong? And if I get it in first pregnancy will I really get it in subsequent pregnancies?

Morning sickness can be a positive sign that the pregnancy is implanting strongly and is associated with lower rates of miscarriage. This is because nausea tends to increase as the pregnancy hormone (hCG) rises, and a strong hormone rise is associated with better outcomes in the first trimester (in terms of miscarriage risk).

Severe morning sickness (hyperemesis), doesn’t mean there is something wrong with you or baby, but can become bad enough to be a problem for you both due to malnutrition and dehydration.

Women who suffer bad nausea in pregnancy tend to have a higher chance of it being a problem next time around compared with the average, but certainly every pregnancy is different and some pregnancies seem to be worse than others in the same women (and no the first is not always the worst for nausea…). You could be fine next time… But I would never guarantee it.

Do spicy foods and caster oil really help you to labour?

Not really. They will probably give you an upset stomach and intestinal cramps. Intestinal cramps may make you feel more like you are in labour, or increase the discomfort you get when the uterus tightens with Braxton Hicks.

We know that when women get gastroenteritis during pregnancy it can increase the chance of an “irritable uterus”, uncomfortable and irregular uterine tightenings which rarely can progress into labour. This is more of a worry when you are preterm, not so much when you are trying to get yourself into labour.

The only time I saw Cherie eat Jalapenos from the jar was when she was trying to bring on labour with Julianna, who still went 8 days overdue…

Do I really have to get rid of my pet cat? And stay away from potting mix?

The thing about soil and cats is the link with an infection known as “toxoplasmosis”. This is a microbial infection which can be a cause of birth defects. This is known to be present in fresh soil and cat faeces. If you are an avid gardener, or own cats, it may be worth having a blood test to see if you have had this bug in the past (and are immune). If you are not immune, it is probably wise to take extra precuations when pregnant, like wearing gloves to garden or change litter trays. If you have had a beloved cat for years, and have never had toxoplasmosis, odds are you probably won’t get it for the first time from your personal cat during a pregnancy – but it is not impossible.

Does heartburn really mean my kid is going to have a thick head of hair?

No. Sorry to disappoint you. 90% of pregnant women get heartburn and most newborns aren’t super hairy… So no. But it is fun to blame the baby for stuff…

Do you really need to toughen your nipples for breastfeeding? What happens if you don’t?

You definitely need to get onto this right away. I did have a patient call me last year who had her nipples fall off one week postpartum…

They actually hadn’t fallen off when she turned up in the office, but they were both covered in blisters and ulcers. Yay for parenting!

People may not tell you how painful breastfeeding can be at first. Cracks, ulcers, blisters are kind of part of the right of passage for some women.

You don’t need to bust out the sandpaper just yet though. You will naturally toughen up the longer you feed (like finger calluses from playing guitar), and getting good advice about breastfeeding technique from your midwife is super important. Don’t let the kid chew the nipple, try to get the nipple right to the back of baby’s palate and tongue.

We don’t recommend deliberately hand expressing from the breast during pregnancy until after 36 weeks. This is because it could theoretically increase the odds of going into early labour (though not a super high chance, otherwise all overdue women would be walking around with breastpumps on trying to bring on labour).

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Well ladies, I hope David’s answers to some of my many pregnancy questions were helpful in some way. There will be more to come in the next post!

Cheers for now!

Your friend and inquisitive parenting peer

Cherie x