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Published February 09, 2013, 11:40 PM

Pregnancy fact or fiction? OB-GYNs weigh in on common myths (or truths?)

FARGO - Eat this, don’t eat that. Drink this, don’t drink that. Do this, don’t do that. Blogs, magazines and books advise newly pregnant women how to behave over the next nine months to ensure they deliver healthy babies. Everyone has an opinion on how to have the “best” pregnancy and labor.

By: Meredith Holt, INFORUM

FARGO - Eat this, don’t eat that. Drink this, don’t drink that. Do this, don’t do that.

Blogs, magazines and books advise newly pregnant women how to behave over the next nine months to ensure they deliver healthy babies.

Everyone has an opinion on how to have the “best” pregnancy and labor.

But amid the studies and tried-and-true experience, some untruths have survived.

Two local OB-GYNs weigh in on 10 of the most common notions about pregnancy and delivery.

Pregnant women shouldn’t dye their hair: FICTION

Dr. Mary Holm, an OB-GYN with Fargo’s Essentia Health, says it’s OK to dye your hair or get a perm during pregnancy.

“Some women are more sensitive to smells, and that may bother them, but other than that, there’s no danger for the fetus,” she says.

Pregnant women shouldn’t drink coffee: FICTION (sort of)

Both Holm and Dr. Jed Perkerewicz, an OB-GYN with Fargo’s Sanford Health, say pregnant women can safely consume caffeine but recommend limiting their daily intake to 200 to 300 milligrams.

“Up to three cups of coffee (a day) would be normal, or a couple cups of coffee and a Diet Coke,” Holm says.

Pregnant women should sleep on their left sides: FACT

Doctors do typically recommend sleeping on your side during pregnancy, Perkerewicz says.

“Your big veins in your pelvis are underneath where the pregnancy rests, and so the pressure of the baby, if you’re lying flat on your back, can decrease blood flow up into your vital organs,” he says.

It doesn’t necessarily have to be your left side, though that becomes more important if you have high blood pressure, are carrying multiple babies or are morbidly obese, Holm says.

“For the average-sized female, if they wake up on their right side, they have not done any damage to their fetus, so in most cases, it’s not an issue,” she says.

Pregnant women shouldn’t eat seafood: FICTION (sort of)

Holm and Perkerewicz say women can eat seafood (including sushi!) while pregnant if they limit it to 12 ounces a week and avoid certain kinds of fish completely.

Skip the higher-mercury shark, swordfish, king mackerel, tile fish and tuna steak (canned tuna is fine).

“Too much mercury can damage the central nervous system in the fetus,” Holm says.

The baby’s position in the womb can predict its gender: FICTION

Both Perkerewicz and Holm say carrying high or wide does not mean you’re having a girl, nor does carrying low or narrow mean you’re having a boy.

“That has more to do with how the mother’s built,” Holm says.

Other gender indicators, like morning sickness: FICTION

You can’t rely on the severity of your morning sickness or heartburn during pregnancy to reveal your baby’s gender, either.

“As far as I know, there’s no way to confirm the sex of the baby other than ultrasound,” Perkerewicz says.

Pregnant women shouldn’t scoop cat litter: FACT

Doctors don’t want them handling kitty litter because of the risk of toxoplasmosis, a parasitic disease primarily hosted by members of the cat family.

“It’s not as common in the United States, but toxoplasmosis during pregnancy can cause birth defects,” Perkerewicz says.

If you have cats and you don’t have someone else who can take over the duty while you’re carrying, Holm recommends getting your antibody level checked.

“If she’s been previously exposed to this because she’s had cats all her life, then there would be no risk to the fetus because she has developed antibodies to that,” she says.

Having sex will induce labor: FACT (sort of)

Perkerewicz says it’s worth a try, but he hasn’t seen any studies proving that getting it on will help get things going.

“It’s absolutely safe to have intercourse in the third trimester, late in pregnancy, as long as you don’t have any other reasons not to have sex,” he says.

Semen contains prostaglandins, which are released as a normal part of going into labor, Holm explains.

So if you’re already at term or close to your due date, and you have what’s called a “favorable cervix,” sex could bring on contractions.

“Now, would it be enough for her water to break or to go into real labor? Questionable. But, theoretically, it could,” Holm says.

Pregnant women shouldn’t take hot baths or use saunas or hot tubs: FICTION (sort of)

You can take a bath, especially if it’s to help ease the discomforts of pregnancy, but not too hot of a bath, the doctors say.

To avoid overheating and changes in blood pressure, keep the water under 100 degrees and don’t soak for too long.

“If it’s under 100 degrees, it should be OK because we all have mild fevers during pregnancy, and those aren’t going to cause a problem,” Holm says.

Do avoid fully submerging in a hot tub, though.

“You can dangle your feet in the sauna and sit on the edge, but you can’t put your pelvis and your abdomen down into it,” she says.

Other labor inducers, like drinking castor oil: FICTION

Eating spicy food or drinking castor oil won’t do anything but give you an upset stomach, which is the last thing you want when you’re due.

“That’s only going to cause GI disruption and discomfort, and there’s no evidence that that increases your chance of going into labor,” Perkerewicz says.

Holm says castor oil may increase peristalsis (constriction and relaxation of the muscles) of the gastrointestinal system, which may irritate the uterus, causing it to contract, but probably not enough to induce labor.

Perkerewicz does recommend walking, however – not because it’ll start labor, but because it’ll help alleviate some of the discomfort and take your mind off of it.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Meredith Holt at (701) 241-5590

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