Pregnancy: Myths, Dos, and Don'ts (cont.)

In addition, spinach is loaded with iron, a mineral essential for health.

Alcohol and Tobacco
Despite all the dirty looks from relatives, some pregnant women still have a glass of wine now and then. No safe level of alcohol consumption has been established -- but since there is no safe level, you and your doctor need to decide. Dolan recommends excluding all alcohol at least during the first trimester when so much of the baby's nervous system is being formed.

Of course, that familiar cigarette is out altogether! In addition to nicotine, cigarettes contain thousands of additives that leap across the placenta into your baby's system. At the very least, prematurity and low birth weight can result from smoking, Dolan says.

Eating for Two
Before you start eating for two, Murkoff says, "remember that one of the two of you is about the size of a grain of rice at first. You only need about 300 extra calories a day when you're pregnant."

Beauty Treatments

Artificial Nails
Your nails grow faster when you're pregnant, so you can probably make do with "home-growns," Murkoff says. Nail salons often smell strongly of chemicals, and if it smells strong, it probably isn't good for you or your baby, she says.

At least one study has also shown that pregnant women who work in nail salons, dry cleaning establishments, medical laboratories, and manufacturing plants who work with smelly chemical solvents may be putting their fetus' brain development at risk.

Bikini wax
Aren't you the glam mom-to-be! Pregnant women sometimes do find hair in the most unwanted places, not just bikini country. Wax is preferable to chemical depilatories.

Hair dye and perms
There are no data supporting harmful effects of hair dye, either, according to Dolan. "Very little dye reaches your scalp, anyway." The smells, however, can gross out a pregnant woman's overly sensitive sniffer.

Awake and Asleep

Left side for sleeping
Murkoff says propping everything into a comfy position on your left side after the fourth month minimizes pressure on your uterus and intestines and speeds up nutrients to the baby. If you wake up in a different position, such as your back, flop over and start again. Lying on your back puts too much pressure on the vena cava, cautions Dolan.

Exercise and hot tubs
It's probably best not to overheat when pregnant (although the studies were done on women with fevers, who probably had other things wrong with them). "If you never exercised," Dolan cautions, "you should not start when pregnant. If you do exercise, this is not the time to increase your workout."

Changing the litter box
Cats can carry a disease called toxoplasmosis. Your vet can test for it, or dad can change the box. Gloves are a good idea in any event.

Using the computer
No big deal, Dolan says.

Lawn work
The first trimester of pregnancy may not be the best time to get in touch with your inner groundskeeper.

A recent study suggested that common weedkillers may cause developmental problems. Researchers found exposure to chemically treated golf courses and lawns before the recommended waiting period is over could harm the developing embryo. The EPA is currently evaluating these findings.

Bringing on Labor

Castor oil
Some people advise a dose of the old-time remedy to kick-start labor, but this stuff tastes terrible, and a violent diarrhea might spoil the mood.

It passes the time and is OK if your doctor advises it. But there is no evidence it will bring on labor.

Having sex
Prostaglandins, substances in semen, plus the contractions of sex, can hasten labor in some cases. Some doctors even prescribe it.

Spicy foods
Feel like a nice case of gastritis?

Predicting the sex
The old wives have been aced by ultrasound these days, but a slew of myths persist: carry low and it's a boy, carry wide and it's a girl, nose getting bigger and it's a girl, Drano in the toilet, you've heard them all. Each of these, Murkoff says, has a 50% chance of being true.

Originally published Aug. 6, 2002.
Medically updated Feb. 7, 2005.

Last Editorial Review: 5/26/2005 6:56:49 PM

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