Pregnancy Myths: 10 Old Wives’ Tales Debunked!

Pregnancy Myths: 10 Old Wives’ Tales Debunked!

As soon as people get to know you’re pregnant, the advice begins trickling in. Every well-meaning, all-knowing older woman you meet, whether she’s a beloved relation or a complete stranger, has some advice for you. Smile and nod while letting it all slide because plenty of these warnings are bunkum. Also, some of these pregnancy myths are pretty hilarious! Here are the 10 best (worst?) ones I’ve heard.

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1. Eat plenty of ghee in your last trimester—this will help the baby slide out faster during labour.

I’ve heard this one from numerous Punjabi aunties. Ghee and other milk products such as yoghurt, because of their high calcium content, are certainly on the approved pregnancy diet list unless you’re significantly overweight. However, as with any diet, moderation is the key. The only way ghee could help your baby slide out is if you slather the birth canal with it—not a generally recommended procedure.

2. Don't drink tea when pregnant; it will darken your baby’s skin colour.

This particularly dire warning came from my somewhat eccentric Bihari neighbour. Tea is something doctors have different opinions on. Some will tell you that green tea is fine, but not regular black tea even with milk. Others say a cup or two a day is fine. It’s the caffeine content they’re worried about, and not the complexion of your baby!

3. If you do yoga while pregnant, the baby will be born a hunchback!

Punjabi aunty from downstairs strikes again with this bizarre one! The fact is that yoga is particularly helpful during pregnancy because it helps keep your muscles stretched and supple at a time when much of your core is losing muscle tone in an effort to stretch to accommodate your growing uterus. This puts pressure on the back. Specific yoga asanas, in fact, can help keep your back strong and cut down on back pain.

4. If you scratch your stomach, the baby will be born bald.

Surprisingly, this one was courtesy my usually practical Malayali grandmother. It is, of course, nonsense. The amount of hair a baby is born with is dependent on the baby’s genes, NOT your scratching habits.

5. Having sex during pregnancy will make your baby frightened of penises.

So said a 70-year-old British lady who was sitting next to me on a flight from Khajuraho to Delhi. Clearly, the irony of her choice of holiday destination and the drift of her beliefs was lost on her. Babies are not affected by intercourse at all, since they are well-contained within the amniotic sac in the uterus. If your partner’s penis is reaching past the vagina, up the cervix and into the uterus, you’ve got a whole different set of problems. (P.S.: Doctors do advise certain precautions during sex when you’re pregnant. Give him or her a call if you’re worried about rough play and suchlike!)

6. If your stomach sticks far out, it’s a boy. If your bump is spread over your abdomen, it’s a girl.

This seems to be a widely held belief, as I’ve heard it from Bengalis, Punjabis, Russians and French women. In truth, the shape and size of the belly depends on your own physiology, diet and exercise regimen.

7. Girls steal their mothers’ beauty, boys add to it.

So if you’ve got skin problems, look haggard, or generally don’t “glow”, you’re likely to be having a girl, according to my European friends. Aunty TamBrahm, however, recited the maxim in reverse, saying boys always require more of their mothers than girls do. My radiologist claims that pregnancy acne is a sign of too much sugar and carbohydrates in your diet, and a potential symptom of gestational diabetes, but the dermatologists and my gynaecologist remain silent on the issue.

8. If the skin on your neck gets discoloured and darkens, you’re having a boy.

This was the prediction of a Malayali aunt. I’ve never read of any relationship between the baby’s gender and skin discolouration. However, it is a common symptom caused by the changes in your hormones. Most fade after delivery.

9. Eat twice what you normally eat, you are eating for two.

This one is a pan-India belief. Don’t, unless you want obesity complicating your pregnancy! True, you tend to be hungrier, and you’ll certainly need more food in your system—but your baby does not need as much food as another full-grown adult, so doubling your non-pregnancy intake is not going to be helpful or healthful. Go with what your gynaecologist and dietician say.

10. If you crave sweets, it's a girl; if you crave savoury food, it's a boy.

This one has other variations too. If you crave tangy stuff, it’s a boy; if you crave spicy food, it’s a girl. The sex of your baby as indicated by your cravings changes from state to state and community to community in India. And there’s just NO scientific merit to this. My advice? Indulge your cravings (but in moderation, because you don’t want to get sick), and wait for your baby to come. :)


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