Having a baby is one of the most important and exciting times in a woman’s life—and a man’s. By bringing a child into the world, they are taking part in a ritual as old as humankind: creating a family.
Thanks to advances in medical procedures and research, pregnancy and delivery has evolved quite a bit since the days of our ancestors. However, all this knowledge and technology has failed to squash misconceptions about the process of being pregnant, and of giving birth to a child.
Here are five misunderstandings about pregnancy and childbirth that have persisted over time. If you are in doubt about what you should or shouldn’t do, it’s best to follow your doctor’s advice.
Myth #1: I need to eat for two (or three or four).
Fact: All you need to add to your diet while pregnant is about 300 extra calories a day. If you are overweight, your physician is likely to suggest reducing your calorie intake. There are some exceptions to this rule: if you are carrying multiple babies, if you are extremely thin or if you are very active, you may be instructed to eat more.
Myth #2: It doesn’t matter how I sleep.
Fact: It depends on the stage of your pregnancy. It’s fine during your first trimester, but after that, experts recommend you sleep on your side. Why? As the pregnancy progresses, if you sleep on your back, the baby puts pressure on a large vein carrying blood to the heart to get oxygen. This can make you tired and reduce blood flow to the baby.
Myth 3: Food cravings mean something is wrong.
Fact: Experts are divided on this one. Most believe pregnant women’s cravings to be caused by hormonal changes, not a lack of nutrients or minerals. Some say if a mother-to-be suddenly has a sudden urge for ice or an attraction to laundry starch, it could be a sign of an iron deficiency. But this has not been scientifically proven.
Myth #4: Abdominal cramping is normal.
Fact: Some discomfort is normal, but severe and constant abdominal pain is not, regardless of the stage of a woman’s pregnancy. See your doctor right away if you are having episodes of severe pain and cramping, especially if it is accompanied by fever, chills, a feeling of being lightheaded or dizzy, or is accompanied by vaginal bleeding.
Myth #5: An epidural slows down labor.
Fact: Scientists have found no evidence to back this up. If anything, they say, an epidural may actually speed up the birth of a woman’s baby, since it’s usually given when she is having difficulty and is in great pain. By providing pain relief to the woman, she may be able to relax some and this could make the birth happen more quickly.