truth or tattle: pregnancy myths and old wives’ tales

what are pregnancy myths and old wives' tales

Chatting with friends and fellow mums about all things baby is a wonderful and widespread practice. You’re sure to receive lots of fantastic advice and maybe even some gifts if they’re feeling generous! But you’re also likely to be told to avoid certain foods and activities, or that you’re bound to have a boy.

Hold on, don’t put down your coffee and throw away those trainers just yet! Not everything we hear is true, so let’s leave the tales to the nattering nannies and the myths to the Greeks. It’s time to set the story straight so you can relax and enjoy your pregnancy, worry-free.

ooh it must be a boy, you’re carrying low

From bump shape to cravings and heart rate to mother’s beauty, you’ve probably heard lots of suggestions for predicting baby’s gender. In short, they’re all mere speculation without scientific backing. But, for the sake of curiosity, here’s the long of it too.

As the quote says, boys are carried low while girls are carried high and wide. In reality, your bump is affected by many things like your body shape, how far along you are and what position your little one has wriggled in to. It’s also said that craving sweet food suggests a girl and salt implies a boy. I don’t know what my cravings suggest (except that I have a terrible sweet tooth) but those you experience during pregnancy certainly don’t predict gender. You’re likely just peckish!

The list of suggestions goes on with a sickness-free first trimester and glowing skin predicting a boy, while dull skin and a foetal heart rate above 140 bpm suggests a girl. Speak to other mums and you’ll soon realise that morning sickness affects every pregnancy differently (we’ll cover this delightful subject more in a moment) and heart rates for both genders tend to be no different prior to the onset of labour.

While all of these methods have a 50/50 chance of being right, they’re no more scientifically accurate than if I made a prediction for you! If you want to make colour scheme plans for your nursery or decide on a gender-appropriate name, book yourself in for an ultrasound. Not only is it magical to see your baby for the first time, but it’s accurate too!

don’t worry, it’s called morning sickness for a reason

Now now, don’t scoff. I’m sure we all feel just as deceived by such a name! Quite at odds with its title, morning sickness can affect you at any time of the day or night and is highly common in early pregnancy. While you battle through the nausea, rest assured that it poses no risk to your little bump and usually clears up by weeks 16 to 20.

While you are still feeling the effects, there are small changes you can make to your diet and daily life to help reduce the symptoms. When you’re not on a shopping spree for sleepsuits or working until you can no longer see your toes, make sure to get plenty of rest as tiredness can make nausea worse.

Don’t rush to get up in the morning either and if you have someone to dote on you, make sure they do just that. Breakfast in bed is practically compulsory! Ask for some toast or a plain biscuit and keep sipping fluids before getting up slowly. Failing that, try a mug of ginger tea which may help to reduce your symptoms, all of which you can record in a sickness diary so you can track when it’s best for you eat and drink.

pregnant mum drinking coffee

you’re eating for two now, but you’d better avoid coffee

We’re all guilty of eating a little more than we should every now and then, mums-to-be included. Much to our dismay, being pregnant does not mean you should eat for two. It’s only in the final three months that the extra calories are needed and that averages just 200 calories per day. It’s much more important to eat healthily with plenty of fresh fruit and veg, avoiding an overindulgence in fatty and sugary foods.

There is a little gold at the end of the rainbow though and it takes the form of coffee. You may have been told to avoid this life-sustaining substance but you can enjoy a brew if you watch the quantity. The warning isn’t unfounded as too much caffeine from any source (be it tea, fizzy drinks or chocolate) can increase your risk of miscarriage, but you’re allowed 200 milligrams a day. That’s two mugs of instant coffee. Phew!

throw the towel in with exercise and cancel that flight

I admit, I’d use pregnancy as an excuse to avoid exercise but it’s not time to let those trainers get dusty. In fact, exercise is encouraged whilst pregnant! Your little bundle is in no danger if you do low-intensity activities such as walking, swimming, aqua aerobics and yoga. Keeping active will help you adapt to your changing body, cope with labour and get back into shape after the birth. So tie those laces and get going.

Something else mums-to-be are told to avoid is flying but, once again, this just isn’t the case. If you have had an uncomplicated pregnancy then plan that holiday. You can fly up to 36 weeks of pregnancy, or 32 if carrying multiples, with a letter from your midwife or doctor. It’s important that your travel insurance covers you and it’s recommended that you take your medical notes with you too, just as a precaution.

pregnant woman doing yoga exercise

a curry to bring on labour and a small baby for an easier birth

Like a pre-hospital shopping list, these things are said to make labour easier. Unfortunately, it’s all hearsay. Women the world over may swear by curries as a way to kick start labour but it’s not backed by any scientific research. Your little one will come when they’re good and ready, so don’t rely on something spicy if you’re planning a post-baby trip and be prepared just in case it does work its magic!

Another thing said to help with labour is a smaller baby. Little more than wishful thinking, some even say that a larger baby could be easier due to gravity’s effect and their extra strength to help push themselves out. In the end, each and every birth is different so don’t wager ease of birth based on size.

no two pregnancies are the same

The only truth in the bunch! Your pregnancy is your own, unlike any other. Hopefully, you’re a little wiser and a little less worried now that we’ve cleared up those tall tales and meaningless myths. But if in doubt then ask your midwife, have a chat with us or take a read of our advice pieces. We’re here to help.


Find out about Mothercare's

latest news & offers