Anna Gragert
February 18, 2016 8:57 am
Universal Pictures

If you’ve ever taken a stroll through a bookstore, you’ve most likely come across an entire section devoted to pregnancy and parenting. Because, while giving birth is a completely natural process, it can be pretty mysterious. And terrifying.

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Yes, deciding to have a child is a huge decision that’s definitely scary to some, but there’s something even more worrisome than getting pregnant: all the myths that come with pregnancy. With all these falsities making their way in the world today, it’s no wonder why pregnancy is intimating!

Since countless falsehoods are giving pregnancy a bad (or at least daunting) name, we’ve decided to step in, wave the white flag, and clear the air. Now let’s debunk some of these malicious myths…

1. Myth: Pregnant women should be eating for two. 

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While a pregnant woman may be growing a human being inside her, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) states that – if she had a normal weight pre-pregnancy – she will only require, at most, 300 extra calories a day. In other words, a mom-to-be can enjoy half a PB&J sandwich along with a glass of skim milk (in addition to her normal diet) and she’s good to go.

2. Myth: Caffeine cannot be consumed. 

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While this myth has certainly caused expectant moms/coffee lovers to have a crisis of conscience, it’s (fortunately) not true. “There does not appear to be any relationship between caffeine consumption and preterm birth,” states clinical professor of maternal/fetal medicine Nancy Chescheir, adding that pregnant women should stay within the recommended limit of 200 milligrams (a 12-ounce cup) per day.

3. Myth: Avoid flying at all costs. 

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“Women who have coexisting lung or cardiac problems when they’re pregnant might find they don’t do well flying at 30,000 feet,” Chescheir explains. “They should ask their doctor before they get on a plane, but an otherwise normal, healthy woman should be able to fly very safely.”

Most women fear flying while pregnant because of the radiation associated with the airport’s body scanners and X-ray machines. In response, Chescheir says, “It’s a very minute amount of radiation, and it’s extremely unlikely to cause any sort of fetal effects.” The FDA’s research confirms this. Also, women who are still worried can always choose to get a pat-down instead.

4. Myth: Say goodbye to fish. 

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Actually, two weekly servings of fish is perfectly healthy for a mom and her baby. “I recommend all pregnant and breastfeeding moms eat fish and eggs [as long as they’re not uncooked or cured] several times a week to make sure their developing babies get enough DHA and other omega-3’s,” advises Dr. Robert W. Sears. “Alternatively, you can take DHA and omega-3 oil capsules available at vitamin stores.”

However, according to Chescheir, pregnant women should avoid fish high in mercury: swordfish, shark, tilefish, and king mackerel. Also, the ACOG states that raw sushi is a no-go (especially if it contains the fish we just mentioned). However, cooked sushi is fine and so are these species: salmon, shrimp, and canned light tuna.

5. Myth: Throw out your hair dye.

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“We don’t believe there’s any fetal risk from hair dyes and such,” Chescheir asserts, mentioning that only a minimal amount of hair dye chemicals seep into the skin, but they are not harmless. Nonetheless, hair dyes that give off a strong scent have been known to cause nausea in pregnant women.

6. Myth: Cocoa butter prevents stretch marks. 

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We’re sorry to be the bearers of bad news, but this is false. “The formation of stretch marks mostly has to do with a woman’s collagen and how well her skin stretches,” says Dr. Yvonne Bohn, explaining why no cream can prevent such a thing. Dr. Alane Park adds that some women are actually allergic to cocoa butter and that it can make skin more sensitive.

7. Myth: Sex will hurt the baby. 

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Unless your doctor warns against it or you have a certain medical condition, you can still have sex while pregnant (since the baby is protected by the amniotic sac). Both Chescheir and Dr. Park confirm this. Even so, the CDC explains that you must still worry about sexually transmitted diseases, since they can be transmitted to your baby as well.

8. Myth: You cannot pet your cat. 

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On its own, your cat will not harm you (according to Dr. Park), but your cat’s feces might. Since cat poop contains  toxoplasmosis – a disease that may cause birth defects – it’s recommended that pregnant women avoid litter boxes at all costs. On the other hand, Dr. Park mentions that cleaning up after your dog is perfectly safe.

9. Myth: Step out of (and away from) your high heels and exercise shoes. 

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Pregnant women can wear heels – unless they’re prone to falling. “We’re more concerned about the fact that as you get more and more pregnant, your center of gravity changes and you become less steady on your heels,” Dr. Park explains.

Dr. Brohn adds that a mom’s light to moderate exercising has no effect on her baby, stating “If stretching or bending were actually dangerous, our hunter-gatherer ancestors would’ve been in big trouble.”

10. Myth: You can give your baby your cold. 

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Though you should always check with your doctor, few infections are able to cross the placenta and harm your unborn child. “The good news for you is that a cold will not harm your developing baby,” writes Dr. Renee Hanton. “The catch here is that you should ensure that your body temperature does not exceed the normal temperature by too much. If you can take good care when you catch a cold, you can be sure that it won’t harm your child at all.”

11. Myth: Skincare products are a no-no. 

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Dr. Allison Hill reveals that sunscreen, cleansers, moisturizers, and even self-tanners can be safely used during pregnancy. The only setback: “Creams and cleansers containing salicylic acid can be used only if the concentration is less than two percent.” You should also make sure that your cosmetics don’t contain a copious amount of salicylic acid.