When it comes to pregnancy guidance, it seems that everyone has an opinion, including a list of maternity rules you can totally break. But what is the reality? In this article, we distinguish between reality and fantasy, helping you understand which “rules” may be flexible.
It is normal for pregnant women to be swamped with rules. Friends, neighbors and even strangers on the street are likely to share their thoughts on what is and is not safe during pregnancy. This advice is typically well-intended. Unfortunately, some of it needs to be corrected.
Your physician or midwife is the best source of advice regarding any lifestyle modifications you should or should not make for a healthy pregnancy. However, there are several ‘prohibitions’ that are not essential for the majority of pregnant women. These eight pregnant “rules” can be broken safely unless directed by your medical professional.
Myth: Tension during pregnancy is harmful.
While extreme stress can be harmful to the fetus, evidence indicates that moderate stress is actually beneficial. A March of Dimes article reads, “Normal stress during pregnancy, such as work demands, probably does not contribute to pregnancy complications.” In fact, it can stimulate the fetus’s neurological system and hasten its development. However, according to a single study, children with moderate stress during pregnancy have 2-week-old newborns whose brains function faster than infants whose mothers did not experience moderate stress, and 2-year-old toddlers with higher motor and mental development scores.
Yet, significant stress or strain can cause health issues such as high blood pressure. It can also suppress the immune system, increasing the likelihood of a uterine infection. Hence, you should strive to be as mindful as possible, minimizing high-stress situations and activities whenever possible.
Myth: Pregnant women should not consume sweets.
Pregnant women should be cautious of what they consume, but excluding an entire food, group is unnecessary unless their doctor advises them to do so. Additionally, some sweets (yes, sweets!) give health benefits, e.g., daily chocolate consumption can be beneficial. According to a study published in August 2010, consuming the sweet ingredient can reduce the incidence of preeclampsia and gestational hypertension.
Myth: Pregnant women should avoid exercise.
Several studies have demonstrated the health benefits of exercise, such as how exercising during pregnancy improves your mood and sleep quality. It reduces the risk of gestational diabetes, other pregnancy problems, and back discomfort and stress. Physical activity during pregnancy is beneficial.
But did you know that as you exercise, so does your baby? According to studies, the fetal heart rates of physically active pregnant women are slower and more varied, both indicators of cardiovascular health. Babies born to exercisers have lower birth weights and may develop into more intellectual adults due to their larger brain sizes.
Myth: Pregnant women should not consume seafood.
During pregnancy, consuming fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids and low in mercury may result in smarter children. A study published in October 2019 found that children whose mothers consumed at least 12 ounces of fish per week during pregnancy had higher verbal IQ, better social and communication skills, and superior motor skills. According to a second study, they also had an improved metabolic profile, attributable in large part to seafood.
Myth: Using caffeine when pregnant is unsafe.
Caffeine, which is contained in soda, coffee, tea, and chocolate, was once advised to be avoided by pregnant women, but current evidence indicates that moderate use is safe. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) advises pregnant women to consume no more than 200 mg of caffeine per day, which is equivalent to one 12-ounce cup of coffee.
Myth: Lying on one’s back while pregnant is hazardous.
While most doctors and experts advise pregnant women to sleep on their sides, some pregnant women can (and do) sleep on their backs. It’s a matter of convenience. Moreover, it poses negligible risk, particularly during the first trimester. Yet, the ACOG continues to suggest pregnant women sleep on their side.
The ACOG adds, “As your tummy expands, lying on your back may not be healthy.” “It places your uterus’ weight on your spine and back muscles. Sleeping on the back during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy may produce dizziness and limit blood flow to the fetus by squeezing a major blood artery that provides blood to the uterus. Throughout your second and third trimesters, it may be better to sleep on your side.”
Myth: Consuming pepperoni pizza during pregnancy is harmful to the fetus.
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), pregnant women should avoid deli and luncheon meats. This is owing to their potential contamination and high nitrate content. However, if properly prepared and heated, these items can be enjoyed in moderation. The ACOG recommends reheating deli meats to 165 degrees Fahrenheit or greater before consumption. This indicates that pepperoni pizza, for instance, is a safe wager.
Myth: You cannot have sex when pregnant.
If you choose to engage in sexual activity while pregnant, it is safe unless your physician or midwife recommends it. Several studies have determined that vaginal sex during pregnancy does not raise the risk of preterm labor or birth. In addition to amniotic fluid and your uterus, your baby is also strongly protected by amniotic fluid and your uterus. Nonetheless, you can and should consult your physician if you have specific concerns.
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