When I was expecting my first child a few years ago, I got a lot of pregnancy-related advice from family and friends. ‘You must eat for two’, or ‘You must not step out after sunset’, among others. While some of these pieces of advice made sense, some just left me baffled.
In this article, Dr Sutopa Banerjee, Director – Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Fortis Vasant Kunj, New Delhi, helps us bust some of the myths that expectant mothers often hear.
Let’s look at some of the common myths around pregnancy and what advice Dr Sutopa Banerjee gives regarding these long-held misconceptions:
1. Eating for Two
Dr Banerjee says this is nothing but a big myth. “Evidence exists to show that nearly 50 per cent of women end up consuming more than the recommended calories during pregnancy because they don’t watch what they eat or often end up eating the wrong foods to satisfy cravings,” she informs.
She advises expectant mothers to understand their bodies and their nutritional needs. “It is essential to know that being obese during pregnancy can lead to other health issues and difficulties during delivery such as – pre-term birth, gestational diabetes, difficult labour and high blood pressure.”
Doctor’s Advice: The solution is to stick to a balanced diet according to the recommended dietary chart. It should include cereals, fruits, green vegetables, fruits, lean meat and dairy products such as cheese, milk and curd, or as advised by your doctor.
2. Complete No-No to Exercises and Fitness Activities
This is yet another myth in which many pregnant women unfortunately believe. “On the contrary, light exercises such as walking, stretching, yoga and meditation are highly recommended. A fit woman is more likely to have an easier delivery and speedier recovery,” shares Dr Banerjee.
Doctor’s Advice: Pregnancy should not mean leading a sedentary lifestyle. If you have been into fitness and exercising regimes, then it is advisable to continue following it during your pregnancy. Consult your doctor and continue with the exercises. It will make you feel fitter, active and also contribute to your overall feeling of well-being.
3. Giving up Driving or Not Wearing Seatbelt
“If you have no existing medical conditions, you can continue to engage in all the daily activities you have been doing so far, which includes driving. You can continue to drive if you have been driving to work or on your regular errands.”
You must treat pregnancy as a regular part of your life.
On whether or not one should wear a seat belt, Dr Banerjee says, “Wearing a seatbelt is non-negotiable, and one must not, under any circumstances, ignore this safety essential. Wearing a seatbelt does not place any additional pressure on your tummy, rather it protects your precious baby.”
Doctor’s Advice: There is no harm in driving but do wear the seatbelt.
4. No Sexual Intercourse
Shedding some light on this often-asked question, Dr Banerjee says, “Some women and men believe that having sex during pregnancy may harm the child. This is not true if you are having a normal pregnancy with no previous history of miscarriage.”
She goes on to clarify that couples can continue to enjoy intimacy during pregnancy.
Dr Banerjee does say that having sexual intercourse during the later stages of pregnancy might impact the baby. “During full-term stages of pregnancy, sexual intercourse may induce labour because the prostaglandins from the semen may soften the cervix and cause uterine contractions.”
Doctor’s Advice: You and your spouse can choose positions to make sexual intercourse more comfortable. But it’s important to avoid lying flat on your back because this can compress the vena cava, the vein that returns blood to the heart from the neck and upper limbs.
5. Opting Not to Take Some Crucial Vaccines
“Many women tend to ignore the vaccinations recommended by their gynaecologist and seem to think that it should be okay not to get some due to fear of injections. This should not be so,” warns Dr Banerjee.
Stressing on the importance of getting all the vaccinations in time, she adds, “Vaccines strengthen the immune system and can help protect the expectant mother’s body from infections and this immunity passes to her baby during pregnancy.”
She urges pregnant women to adhere to the vaccination schedules. This will keep the child safe during the initial months until the baby gets their vaccination. Vaccination also protects mothers from getting diseases that could affect future pregnancies.
Doctor’s Advice: All the recommended medications and vaccines, advised particularly for Indian women should be take. These may include iron and folic acid tablets and vaccines, including tetanus, Hepatitis B, and MMR etc.
6. Giving up work
Women tend to think that pregnancy is a time for work to take a backseat as eventually, they will go on maternal leave. Some people also feel that the productivity levels of women take a hit during pregnancy.
Busting this myth, Dr Banerjee says, “We know that women in rural India have always continued to work right through their pregnancy, both at home and in the fields. Many working professionals and celebrity mums nowadays are setting an example by continuing to work and also be style icons during their pregnancy.”
If your medical practitioner has cleared you to work, then you should do so. This will also ensure that you have a normal pregnancy and make you feel mentally healthy.
Doctor’s Advice: It is good to avoid any stress during this time; however, if working makes you feel happy, active and productive, you can continue to work right up till your delivery.
While we have taken utmost care to ensure that the information listed here is from an expert in the field, you should consult your doctor in case of any query.