Pregnancy Myths vs. Reality

There is a lot of information floating around about what pregnant women should and shouldn’t eat and do.

To help us figure it all out, we asked Erin Neu, an OB nurse navigator with Franciscan St. Francis Health, to lend her expertise on the matter.

MYTH: Skip sushi while you’re pregnant.

REALITY: Raw fish and meat should be avoided, because pregnant women are more susceptible to food-borne illnesses, according to the American Pregnancy Association. But don’t cut out fish altogether. “One to two servings of cooked fish per week is safe and good for you and the baby,” Neu says. Look for fish that contain lower levels of mercury, such as salmon and tilapia.

MYTH: Don’t eat soft-serve ice cream or fro-yo if you’re preggo.

REALITY: There are no restrictions to pregnant women for eating soft-serve treats on the Center for Disease Control website. However, you’ll want to make sure that the dairy-based treat is made with pasteurized milk and has been stored in a hygienic manner. It isn’t always possible to check for both unless you quiz the store proprietor, so some women just skip soft serve while pregnant.

MYTH: No amount of coffee is safe to drink when you’re pregnant.

REALITY: “One 8-ounce serving of caffeine a day is generally safe while pregnant and breastfeeding,” Neu says. Although caffeine is a stimulant and a diuretic — it increases your blood pressure and heart rate, and can dehydrate you — experts have found that moderate levels of caffeine have not been found to have a negative effect on pregnancy, according to the American Pregnancy Association.

MYTH: You shouldn’t clean a cat’s litter box while pregnant.

REALITY: According to the Humane Society, pregnant women can transmit toxoplasmosis, a rare parasitic disease, to their unborn baby, which can lead to miscarriage or birth defects. Toxoplasmosis can be transmitted via contact with cat feces, which is why Neu recommends avoiding the chore altogether. “If you must change the litter box, wear gloves and wash your hands thoroughly when finished,” she says.

MYTH: It’s totally safe to dye your hair while pregnant.

REALITY: There are no studies that prove that coloring your hair during pregnancy is completely safe. But if you’re really itching to touch up your roots, experts recommend waiting until after the first trimester to help ensure the safety of the developing baby. Even then, you might have trouble finding someone to do your ‘do. “Some stylists won’t color your hair while pregnant,” Neu says.

MYTH: Exercise can harm your unborn baby.

REALITY: Don’t cancel that gym membership just yet. “If you had a regular exercise routine prior to becoming pregnant, then it’s safe to continue with physician approval,” Neu says. “Exercise and pregnancy are good together!”

Pregnancy and exercise

MYTH: Sleeping on your left side is best when you’re pregnant.

REALITY: A pregnant mama should sleep in whatever direction is most comfortable and lets her get the most sleep. However, sleeping on your left does relieve some of the pressure on the vena cava, which controls blood flow to the heart, especially later in pregnancy. In turn, this provides better blood flow to the growing baby, Neu says.

MYTH: Painting is a no-no when you’re pregnant.

REALITY: The nursery might need a lot of work before the baby comes, but this is one of those jobs that you should delegate to someone else. “Painting should be avoided, especially in areas that are not well ventilated,” Neu says. “I would also advise against expectant moms climbing ladders or reaching for that super high spot!”

MYTH: Pregnant women shouldn’t wear stiletto heels.

REALITY: Neu says that high heels should probably be avoided because of the risk of falling. Plus, Neu adds, do you really want to wear shoes that are that uncomfortable while you’re pregnant? “High heels aren’t even comfortable when you’re not pregnant!” she jokes.

MYTH: Avoid hot tubs when you’re pregnant.

REALITY: “Hot tubs can quickly raise your body temperature, which in turn may raise your blood pressure and make you feel light headed or dizzy, which may cause a fall,” Neu says. However, pools and warm baths are fine and encouraged!

As always, defer to your doctor if you have specific questions or concerns.

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