I was having coffee with a pregnant friend who had just been running errands. She said the teller at the bank told her, “You’re having a boy. You always lose your looks with a boy.” Rude, you say? And insulting, I might add. But such stories are part of the advice people feel free to give pregnant women – solicited or not. We’ve all heard stories like these, but we scoff and carry on. Still, a part of our mind wonders if there’s any truth to these old wives’ tales. Here a look at some of the most popular:
- If you’re carrying your baby low, it’s a boy. Gender prediction is the most prolific area of pregnancy advice. Carrying high or low, craving certain foods, a high fetal heart rate, and more – all of these tales can be a fun way to guess at whether the baby will be a boy or a girl, but none have a basis in fact. Gender is determined at conception; and, whether male or female, there are no tell-tale signs to clue you in apart from an ultrasound or genetic testing. By the way, carrying low may just mean your abdominal muscles aren’t as strong or toned as other women. Or it could just mean that you are genetically prone to a certain body shape.
- Don’t hang the wash or reach to a high shelf, or your baby will be entangled in the umbilical cord. In Jamaica, women are told not to step over a donkey’s tether or the baby will end up with the cord tightly around his neck. In Sicily, wearing a scarf can cause the same mishap. Or, if you’re Navajo, it could be the sitting with your legs crossed that does it. Take a deep breath, and stop worrying about this one. At birth, the umbilical cord is about twenty inches (50cm) long, and this gives plenty of length for baby to move, twist and turn throughout pregnancy and birth without becoming knotted or entangled. In fact, true knots occur in very few pregnancies.
- If you have heartburn, your baby will be born with lots of hair. Strangely, this one may have some fact to it. One study showed over 80% of babies born to moms who had moderate to severe heartburn had lots of hair! This is probably related to hormones that not only control growth, but that initiate changes in a mom’s body to keep pregnancy healthy.
- Never take a bath when you’re pregnant. The tale goes that if you submerge your belly in water, your baby will drown. While you don’t want to sit in water that’s too hot (and raise your body temperature too much), a warm bath can safely soothe the aches and pains of pregnancy. Also, you may be told not to take a bath in labor after your water breaks because it increases your risk of infection. Studies have shown this is not true, and that even a water birth is safe.
- If you crave a certain food, you’re baby must want it. Hungry for salsa? Your little one must be ordering it up. Well, not really. But there is a chance he might like spicy foods if you eat them often. Amniotic fluid takes on the flavors from mom’s diet, especially strong ones, like garlic or hot pepper. Another thought about cravings is that your body must need certain nutrients when you crave particular foods, though it hasn’t been proven.
- Sex will start labor. Sex is typically safe throughout pregnancy, and, even though it may cause some mild uterine contractions, it won’t start labor necessarily. If your body is ready for birth, however, sex may get things moving. The oxytocin release with orgasm, along with the prostaglandins in semen, may help to soften the cervix and induce regular contractions.
Before the advent of modern medicine, old wives’ tales served as a way of understanding and explaining the unknown. Today, we have ultrasound to track fetal development and all sorts of medical tests to help us understand the intricacies of pregnancy and birth. But these tales persist. Perhaps we still seek to rationalize and exert some control over bodily processes. Or perhaps the tales just serve as a way to connect with the past and with each other.
What are some of the more outrageous old wives’ tales you have heard?
Written by Michelle, writer, editor, Lamaze instructor, lactation consultant, and mother to 4 busy kids.
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a trained medical doctor. Health & Parenting Ltd disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information, which is provided to you on a general information basis only and not as a substitute for personalized medical advice. All contents copyright © Health & Parenting Ltd 2017. All rights reserved.