Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Old Wives' Tales and Pregnancy Myths...

When pregnant with my first child, I realized that the television and movie versions of pregnancy and labor and delivery (L&D) are mythologized and have warped our views of what pregnancy actually is. There is a reason pregnancy knowledge books and websites are so popular--women need books and websites with real, medically accurate, scientifically supported information on what happens in pregnancy, what to expect, things to avoid, things to do, etc. so that we don't float along basing all we know on pregnancy on what has been handed down through the family for generations or what we've seen in films or on TV.

During my first pregnancy, armed with medically accurate information, I would attempt to inform people who offered unsolicited (and often erroneous) advice about what to do or not do during pregnancy or what to do to get the baby to come out or whatever.  I'm an information junkie, so I spent my entire pregnancy all over Babycenter.com, Kelly'sMom.com, Parenting.com, and all sorts of other baby advice websites.  I also went to every doc appointment with a list of questions to inquire about various things.  I overwhelmed my brain with so much info that I didn't even have many questions this second time around and I can often still rattle off some medically sound piece of advice, which I try to only do when asked.

For about 6 months after my first pregnancy, I would become quite annoyed at how pregnancies and labor are portrayed on TV and in movies.  The main myths that would annoy me were...

1) Myth: pregnancy lasts for 9 months.
Truth: The truth is much more complicated.  First, in the world of obstetrics/gynecology, a month of pregnancy is precisely 4 weeks; however, anyone who knows his/her months knows that some months have 4 weeks and some have 5 weeks. (This was a huge debate between my husband and I during the first pregnancy.  He just would not accept that in pregnancy terms, a "month" is exactly 4 weeks with no accounting for the months that have 5 weeks.)  Next, the human gestational period is 40 weeks; however, a pregnancy is considered term between 37 and 40 weeks. Further, most full term babies are born anywhere between 2 weeks before OR 2 weeks after their

2) Myth: the always water breaks to indicate the start of labor.
Truth: It's quite common for a woman to go into labor and her water not break.  It's also common for a
woman's water to break and indicate the start of labor, but this doesn't happen for every single woman.  The fact that movies and TV shows often portray a woman's water breaking as the start of labor has given this expectation that water must break and then you'll know you're in labor.

3) Myth: babies are born on or very close to their due dates.
Truth: The baby's due date is called the Estimated Due Date--the most important word here "estimated."  Science, technology, and research has made predicting due dates more efficient than back in the day, but it's still just an estimation.  First, here's the best advice I got about due dates during my first pregnancy: "They don't have a clock or calendar in there.  Babies come out when they are ready."  Second, it's all a guestimation because you're technically counted as pregnant before you're ever actually pregnant.  The EDD is determined based on the start date of your last known period.  If you have an irregular period, or you don't recall the exact start date or you were spotting for a few days and then your period started, that date could be a bit off.  And again, babies don't have calendars. They come out when they are ready or when you're body is ready to put them out.  For some women, this is a bit after the EDD.  For some women, it's a little before.  And for other women, it's way before.

In the end, TV and movies help perpetuate these and so many other myths about pregnancy that doesn't help but further confuse people.

As for the old wives tales... geezalou!  Ya know, sometimes, I wonder how people survived considering some of the "home remedies" or "home beliefs" that have been passed down from generation to generation.
We've all heard the baby predictor beliefs:
ring on a string swirling or swinging across the wrist of the pregnant woman
have the mom pee in a toilet with drano in it.  The color of the water after peeing will tell gender.
put a spoon under one cushion and a fork under another.  Wear she sits tells gender.
the sex position when the baby was conceived determines the baby gender.

And other beliefs...
--no caffeine. (It's fine in moderation.  No more than 200 mg per day)
--don't raise your arms above your head. (HA!  I guess I can't shower, do my hair, hang clothes, etc.  The fear is that the raised arms will wrap the umbilical cord around the child's neck.  First, that happens in about 30% of pregnancies anyway.  Second, this happening has to do with baby movement--not momma movement.)
--you can walk the baby out if you're past your due date.  (HAHA!  I tried this.  Didn't work.  To quote my doc, "it won't work, but it's good exercise.  And you can try it.")
--lots of heartburn means a baby born with lots of hair. (Heartburn is a fact of most pregnancies.)
--cats in the house will steal the baby's breath. (WTH!)
--a little beer or liquor in the baby bottle to get them to sleep better. (This is called child abuse.)
--a little cereal in the bottle to help them sleep through the night. (Babies shouldn't have anything but milk until at least 6 months--4 months at the absolute earliest.  Although admittedly, other cultures do it a bit differently.)
--holding them too much will spoil them. (Infants need to be protected and shown love.  No, they shouldn't be held 24 hours a day, but they also need to be comforted too.)
--they need to cry to "strengthen their lungs." (Ignoring a baby's cries for too long creates complexes.)
--castor oil will induce labor. (Again, to quote my doc, "if you want to be cleaned out, do the castor oil because it'll definitely do that, but it's not guaranteed to start labor, but it'll definitely clean you out.)


photo credit: Cosmovisión via photopin cc

photo credit: exo~ ale muñoz via photopin cc

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