Dispelling Common Pregnancy Myths

“I’m pregnant!” Those are words that for many women are very exciting, but are also words that can instill fear and anxiety. Those words are often followed by thoughts of limitations and concerns that life will be drastically different over the next nine months. This is both true and false. As a Certified Nurse Midwife and Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner in private practice in D.C. for 6 years, Lauren Gordon is here to dispel many pregnancy myths that are often associated with those life-changing months.

Myth number 1: Foods are restrictive

This is false. Barring those first few months when most women have some nausea and food aversions, there are very few foods you can’t eat during pregnancy. This is good news! I often have patients ask me about the safety of certain foods they heard they weren’t allowed to eat in pregnancy – and I’m always happy to tell them that they can eat almost everything. The few foods you want to be careful of while you are pregnant are foods that can cause foodborne illness. You want to make sure your meats and fish are well cooked, and avoid raw fish. Similarly, you want to double check that your cheeses are pasteurized (most are!). For extra safety, it is important to wash your fruits and vegetables well. These precautions will help reduce the risk of listeria or other illnesses that can be caused by foods. I like to tell my patients that a good goal for eating in pregnany is to enjoy a very colorful diet – a variety of foods is ideal because it gives you and your baby many different vitamins and minerals to absorb and helps keep your baby growing well.

Myth number 2: I have to stop running

This is also false. D.C. is a city with runners galore, and my pregnant runners always want to know, “Do I have to stop running?” or, “Can I run the 5k I signed up for before I found out I was pregnant?” The truth of the matter lies in what your body is used to and how you are feeling. In and of itself, the running isn’t usually the problem for most women. Often, women experience some fatigue in the first trimester that can limit how much running or exercise they feel like doing, and the larger belly in the third trimester can make running more challenging. If you are feeling well and have not been given limitations by your healthcare provider, you can run if it feels good. Some pregnancy complications, such as bleeding or placenta previa, make running not a good idea, and your healthcare provider will discuss this with you. However, if you are experiencing an uncomplicated pregnancy and are feeling well enough to go for a run, you can do it. A good way to monitor your running is by making sure you can talk through your running – if you are feeling out of breath, that is a good time to slow down.

Myth number 3: Pregnancy is always uncomfortable

This can be true or false. Most women experience some sort of discomfort during their first trimester – often nausea, possibly some food aversions and sometimes bloating. But for most women, those symptoms are mild and often resolve on their own by the end of the third or fourth month of pregnancy. The second trimester is usually a nice time; as those first trimester discomforts have resolved, you’ve gotten your energy back and you aren’t feeling too big yet. Enjoy this time! Many women choose the second trimester as the time to take a babymoon or other trips. The third trimester can bring discomforts, such as back soreness as your belly is getting larger, but often the anticipation and excitement of meeting your baby can help you look past these aches and pains. I suggest to my patients to try to look past the discomforts, because I find when women dwell on them, it makes it much harder to enjoy pregnancy – and pregnancy can be very enjoyable! There are many things you can do to relieve the ill effects of pregnancy, such as take tylenol, use heating pads, get a prenatal massage, go to prenatal yoga and even get acupuncture.

Myth number 4: I need to write a birth plan!

This is false. When my patients ask me about a birth plan, I tell them that the goal of a birth plan is to help the expecting couple think about their desires for the day of their baby’s birth. This is a very exciting day in your life, and spending time ahead of that day discussing your desires, fears and expectations is very important. It will help you communicate together so that when the day finally arrives, you will both be on the same page as far as what you are hoping the day looks like. I always suggest that if patients do write a birth plan, that they share it with their healthcare provider, so that if there are any things that cannot be accommodated (for example, most hospitals have a policy that a laboring mother must have IV access), those things can be discussed. But patients are often surprised to learn that most of the things they put in a birth plan are things we are already planning to do. So I tell my patients that a written birth plan is not necessary, but if it would empower you to write one, you should do so! When thinking about birth plans, the most important thing to remember is to be flexible! We don’t know how your labor and delivery will go, and our first priority is always to keep mom and baby safe. Knowing that your plan may change is very important as you prepare, so that if things go differently than you expected, you are not disappointed or surprised, but rather can change direction and continue to focus on this exciting day.

For most women who are healthy and low risk, pregnancy is another normal life stage. Certainly, there are women with high risk pregnancies who will have more restrictions, and even low risk women who will develop complications, but pregnancy can be an enjoyable time – especially if you don’t view it as a time frame full of restrictions. If you have questions or concerns about your pregnancy, always bring them up with your healthcare provider. And don’t forget to enjoy the ride!