Conception and Misconception

Don’t let your pregnancy glow fade with baseless beliefs

Congratulations! You’re pregnant

Get ready to be bombarded with tips on what to do and what not for the next 40 or so weeks….from your family, friends, and random strangers at the market.  Everyone loves to share their personal stories and sage advice, but what advice should you follow? Let’s examine some of the common myths and misconceptions held about pregnancy.

You need to eat for two

A gradual increase of calories as the baby grows is usually necessary, but recommended weight gain varies depending on the number of fetuses you’re carrying and your starting weight. A person who became pregnant at a normal weight with a singleton pregnancy should expect to gain 25-35 lbs.  During the second trimester, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics suggests you can expect to add 340 calories per day and in third trimester 450 calories per day to your daily intake. Discuss with your doctor if you have any concerns about weight gain or your diet during pregnancy.

Watch your weight during pregnancy so you don’t become “huge”

I have never seen anyone more beautiful than a glowing, pregnant momma.  Pregnancy is not the time to “diet” or stress over weight gain. Focus on healthy eating and fueling your body. Some women prefer to eat five smaller meals a day, which also helps with first trimester nausea. Try to limit consumption of “empty” calories and focus on healthy options instead. Remember what is going into your body is directly growing and sustaining your baby!

Pregnant women should avoid exercise

On the contrary! Exercise is wonderful for you and your baby’s heath during pregnancy—helping with balance, alignment, and promoting muscle tone, strength and endurance; it just needs to be done safely. Consult your health care provider before starting any exercise regimen. Walking, prenatal yoga, and swimming are some examples of low impact aerobic activities. Starting new sports activities and taking on dangerous or contact sports should be avoided. Be sure to stay well hydrated, do a warm up and cool down, and if you’re unsure or uncomfortable during the exercise, stop and consult your doctor.

You should avoid caffeine during pregnancy

It is best to limit caffeine intake during pregnancy. Caffeine is a stimulant which increases heart rate and blood pressure; causes sleep difficulties, and can also cross the placenta, exposing your baby to the effects of caffeine. The March of Dimes recommends that until more conclusive studies are done, pregnant women should limit caffeine intake to less than 200 mg per day. This is equal to about one 12 oz cup of coffee.

You should avoid eating seafood while pregnant

Seafood can contain trace amounts of mercury; and certain fish such as mackerel, shark, tilefish and swordfish contain higher levels of mercury which can affect the developing fetus’s nervous system. Low-mercury fish such as shrimp, tuna and catfish can be eaten a few times a week (12 oz or 2-3 servings). Omega 3 fatty acids are the good fats found in seafood and some algae. They are essential for brain and retina development in the fetus, maintaining the balanced production of the hormone-like substances called prostaglandins, and used by the body after birth to produce breast milk. Consult with your health care provider about the best source of Omega 3 fatty acid for you, whether it is seafood, a supplement or another form from plant-based sources.

It’s dangerous to come into contact with cats while pregnant

Don’t give away kitty just yet! True, you really should not change your cat’s litter box during pregnancy because of the risk of toxoplasmosis (an infection that is dangerous to unborn children) from the cat faeces—just give that job to daddy!

You can’t dye, perm or relax your hair while pregnant! 

Well…not necessarily. According to the American Pregnancy Association, only small amounts of dye are absorbed into the skin and should be safe to use during pregnancy. Chemical treatments should be delayed until the second trimester—do limit your contact to the chemicals by wearing gloves or treating your hair in a well-ventilated area. If in doubt, consult your health care provider or just wait until pregnancy is over to treat your hair. Embrace your roots!

Pregnant women can only sleep on their left side

Getting a good night’s sleep is important during pregnancy, so the less you can stress about harming the baby during sleeping the better. In the first trimester, you can sleep in whichever position is comfortable. As your pregnancy progresses and baby puts more pressure on your blood vessels and internal organs, finding a comfortable position may be challenging. It is advised that you sleep on your side (SOS) after the first trimester. According to studies by Mayo Clinic, your liver is located on the right side of your body so sleeping on your left side takes the pressure off. Sleeping on your left side is thought to increase the amount of blood and nutrients available to your baby. To reduce back and hip pain, you can purchase a full body pillow (such as a snoogle) or place a few pillows between your knees and under your bump for extra support.

Laura Wando holds an MPH in International Health and Development (Reproductive Health) and is a development worker in Uganda. She is also a doula at Labor of Love Photography and Doula Services-Kampala (www.facebook.com/doulawando). Laura has worked to support young women and mothers to improve health outcomes, particularly at community level in Sub-Saharan Africa, since 1995 and as a birth doula proving informational, physical and emotional support to pregnant women and their partners since 2012.