Pregnant? Don’t look at animals. Don’t renovate your house. Don’t eat ‘cooling’ food. But most importantly, don’t believe every single thing you hear. Now that’s the truth, not the superstition.
When you are pregnant and entrusted with nurturing life within you, you want to make the right choices to ensure that your child develops well in utero. This may be especially hard to accomplish when it is your first pregnancy and you are faced with uncertainty over what to do. You’ve heard the usual cautionary tales: it’s ‘pantang’ (taboo in Malay, something prohibited usually due to superstition) to renovate your home now! Eat more fish! Friends and relatives mean well, but their advice and comments contradict and confuse. Who should you believe? Don’t fret (it’s not good for Baby!), we ask Dr. Fong Kah Leng, an Obstetrician and Gynaecologist at Sincere Medical Specialist Centre for Women, Novena Specialist Center, to help us clear the air.
(See also: How to Enjoy Chinese New Year while Pregnant)
Myth #1: Predict Baby’s gender with your wedding ring!
What they say: Some do it by the look of the bump: a pointy-shaped tummy means you’re carrying a boy, while wide round belly says “buy pink!”. Or you could put a ring on a string and swing it gently over the bump. If the ring sways from side to side, you have a boy in there. If it moves in a circle, it’s a girl.
The truth: Dr. Fong says, “These gender predictions are just for fun. To find out the gender of your baby, ask the sonographer who carries out your 20 week scan, but be aware that the answer won’t be 100 per cent accurate.”
Myth #2: Your unborn twins have telepathic power
What they say: Twin babies have a strong, out-of-this-world bond because they grow in the womb together. They know how the other thinks and feels. They can ‘sense’ if the other is in distress.
The truth: Dr. Fong says, “To date, no scientific studies have proven the existence of a telepathic link between twins, and anecdotal evidence is far from reliable. Twins do demonstrate an uncanny ability to know what each other is thinking, but those who have studied twins and their behaviour believe that this is a result of living closely with each other for an extended period of time, and point out that twins score no better in telepathy testing than siblings who have been raised together.”
Myth #3: Eat more fish, you’ll have a Baby genius!
What they say: Fish has high DHA content, which believed to be good for brain cell development.
The truth: Dr. Fong says, “Eating two servings of fish per week can be healthy for mum and baby. Coldwater fish in particular contains lots of omega-3 fatty acids, which help with your baby’s brain development and vision. Try to avoid fish high in mercury, such as swordfish, shark, tilefish, and king mackerel. Salmon, shrimp, and canned light tuna are better choices. Skip raw fish too, including sushi or sashimi. Raw fish is more likely than cooked fish to contain parasites and bacteria. It’s fine, however, to eat cooked sushi.”
Myth #4: Drink more water to ensure that Baby gets enough amniotic fluid to ‘swim’ in
What they say: A mum-to-be needs extra fluid to support the increased blood volume in her body, and for amniotic fluid. The more water she drinks, the better.
The truth: Excessive thirst and gulping down copious amount of water could be a sign of diabetes. If this behaviour is new to you and out of character, consult a doctor, says The Only Pregnancy Book You’ll Ever Need by Paula Ford-Martin.
Myth #5: Don’t go to the Zoo or look at animals or your baby will look like one too!
What they say: Do not stare at the goldfish when you are expecting, otherwise the baby will have pop-out eyes. Do not look at too many apes, chimpanzees, and gibbons, or your baby will look like a monkey! Do not look at elephants or your baby will look like an elephant (remember The Elephant Man?)
The truth: As Dr Fong says, “Baby’s looks depends upon genetics.” Enough said.
(See also: How to Dress for your Pregnancy)
Myth #6: Renovations? These will cause baby to be born disfigured!
What they say: Do not hammer nails around the house, do not do any sewing while seated on the bed when there is a pregnant lady in the house, and do not cut things on the bed during your pregnancy, or your baby will have a cut on his face or body.
The truth: Dr. Fong says, “In North America, many mothers-to-be decorate and furnish the baby’s nursery during their pregnancy. Most of their babies have turned out fine. However, pregnant women should avoid carrying heavy things and exercising excessively in pregnancy, especially in the first trimester.”
Myth #7: Mind the colour of your foods and drinks
What they say: Take soya bean drink or coconut drinks so your baby will have fair skin. If you drink or eat dark-coloured foods and liquids, your baby will be dark-skinned.
The truth: Dr. Fong says, “Skin colour is genetic. No food can change one’s genetic make-up.”
Myth #8: Eat young mango to get rid of morning sickness
What they say: Especially during the first trimester, mothers-to-be yearn to eat fresh and sour foods, such as a fruit salad with unripe or raw mango in it.
The truth: Sour mango can irritate your stomach. Instead of taking that, consume more fibre by eating more fresh fruit, and steamed vegetables.
Myth #9: Eating too much ‘cooling’ foods will cause a miscarriage
What they say: Bingeing on grass jelly, cucumber, seaweed, water chestnut, barley, pineapple, and other ‘cooling’ foods early in the pregnancy may cause a miscarriage.
The truth: According to this note from the KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital, food does not cause miscarriage. Instead, the pregnancy or the baby may have developed abnormally from the beginning.
(See also: Dealing with Miscarriage)
Myth #10: Eating nuts while you are pregnant will give your baby a nut allergy
What they say: If the expecting mother eats peanuts and other kinds of nuts, her baby will have a nut allergy.
The truth: Nut allergy is usually hereditary. If the mother suffers an allergy reaction from consuming a nutty product during pregnancy, there is a good chance the baby will be born with the condition. According to this study, the opposite may also be true: “Children whose mothers did not have an allergy and who consumed the highest amount of peanuts or tree nuts – which was five times a week or more – had the lowest risk of developing an allergy to the food.”
Myth #11: Labour and Delivery is always faster with your subsequent child
What they say: I was in labour for 14 hours for my first child and less than five hours for my second one. Surely if I was to have a third child, labour and delivery would be even shorter, right?
The truth: Dr. Fong says, “Second childbirth, and subsequent ones, will undoubtedly be quicker than the first. However whether they will be easier or not is hard to say. It depends on the position and physical condition of the baby and on any issues that may be affecting one’s health. Again, each pregnancy and delivery is different”.
(See also: Must-do Exercises for Easy Labour & Delivery)
Myth #12: Do not block ants/mice nests
What they say: If anyone from your household blocks the nest of ants or mice, your baby’s way out of the womb will be blocked, too, during labour.
The truth: This advice must lean towards its practicality: to stay away from pests and persticides. Dr. Fong warns, “Significant exposure to pesticides is a concern for adults, children and particularly expectant mothers. Garden insects, fleas, mosquitoes, ants, and cockroaches are just some of the reasons that women commonly spray pesticides around their home. Pesticides and insecticides contain chemicals that are used to attack the nervous system of the insects and cause them to die. During the first trimester of pregnancy, the nervous system is rapidly developing in your baby, so you definitely want to avoid any type of contact with pesticides during this time. The safest rule of thumb is that pregnant women should avoid pesticides whenever possible.”
Myth #13: Spicy foods will help kick-start labour
What they say: Be careful if you eat curry and chili towards the end of your pregnancy. Spicy foods may trigger labour.
The truth: Dr. Fong says, “It is a myth that eating spicy foods during pregnancy to induce labour actually brings on labour. There is no known food that brings on labour. The exact cause of labour is often unknown, but it’s believed that the foetus sends a signal which may make the uterus contract and the mother to go into labour. To date there has not been any research done which says that eating any spicy foods will induce labour or start contractions.”
Myth #14: Epidurals are harmful
What they say: In the movie What to Expect When You’re Expecting, when asked if she is going to have an epidural, an expecting mums retorts, “Do I look like somebody who wants to drug my baby?” Some parents-to-be tend to worry that injecting chemicals into your body during labour will have a negative effect on the baby.
The truth: Dr. Fong elaborates, “In reality, epidurals are very safe for the vast majority of patients. Complications do occur, though, and can range from the short-term to long-lasting or life-threatening. The most common side effect is hypotension, a drop in maternal blood pressure that could affect the baby. This occurs more with higher doses of medication. With treatment, hypotension has no consequences to mother or baby. Other relatively common and treatable side effects are nausea, which affects roughly 20 to 30 per cent of women who receive epidurals; and itching, which affects approximately 30 to 50 per cent. Another possibility is that the mother will develop a fever if an epidural is in place for about six hours or more. This can lead to diagnostic testing and, sometimes, antibiotics for mother and child. A much rarer complication is spinal headache. This occurs in less than 1 per cent of patients but it can last for several days and be very uncomfortable. Other rare risks include infection, bleeding and nerve damage near where the injection is given. If the drug is accidentally injected into the bloodstream, this can cause breathing to slow or stop, seizures or even death.”
(See also: Using Epidural for Normal Delivery)
Myth #15: Mother-infant bonding in the first two hours after birth is very important
What they say: It is important for mothers to start nursing and bonding with the baby immediately after delivery.
The truth: Dr. Fong explains, “Bonding refers to the special attachment that forms between a mother and father and their new baby. Sometimes, the bond is immediate. Other times, bonding with the baby takes longer. Studies have found that about 20 per cent of new mums and dads feel no real emotional attachment to their newborn in the hours after delivery. Sometimes, it takes weeks or even months to feel that attachment.”
Myth #16: The Lunar Effect causes more births
What they say: Some people believe the moon’s gravitational pull, which creates high tides, will affect the embryonic fluid around the baby, too.
The truth: A study of over 500,000 births has found correlation between the moon’s cycle and births. Dr. Fong also says, “The belief that the number of births increases on a full moon is a longstanding one, and one with cultural roots. Folkloric tales have, by definition, been around for long enough to seem like common sense. It can be counterintuitive to argue with a belief that has been passed down through countless generations. Anecdotal and anomalous statistical evidence aside, it’s tough to find proof that more babies are born on a full moon.” (Source: Great Myths of Child Development by Stephen Hupp and Jeremy Jewell.)
Myth #17: Do not shower or bathe for 40 days after giving birth
What they say: During confinement, new mothers are not to take any baths. And because the newly-minted mother is considered “dirty” or “not good”, some parents will not allow their children to visit the new mother, the baby, or even to consume the baby’s first month celebratory cakes and pastries.
The truth: Dr. Fong says, “It is perfectly fine to continue one’s bathing habits after giving birth. Besides maintaining personal comfort, regular bathing helps prevent skin and wound infections. However, the mother should not bathe with cold water. She should also dry her body immediately after bathing to prevent exposure to cold air.”
(See also: Multi-racial Confinement Practices in Singapore)