Expecting? 7 Pregnancy Myths Exposed

Pregnancy myths; you've heard them all. Are they really just old wives' tales? Learn what's true and what's not as we expose 7 common myths.

1. You can tell your baby's gender by the way you are carrying, or by the fetal heartbeat.

Myth. Other than ultrasound and amniocentesis (or chorionic villi sampling), there is no way to determine the gender of the baby you are carrying.

Babies are carried differently based on their presentation (breech, vertex, transverse), their position (anterior, posterior), their gestational age and weight, maternal weight and stature and the mother’s parity (whether or not this is her first or eighth baby).

Fetal heartbeat is really no help either. Heart tones may be heard as early as eight to ten weeks using Doppler technology. Until about 20 weeks, it is not unusual to have a fetal heartbeat in the 150 to 160 range. As the baby’s heart develops and the neurological system matures, the count may fall to between 130 to 140. The normal range is 120 to 160. Some say that a fast heart rate is a girl, based on the fact that women’s heart rates are faster than men’s. But if this were the case for an unborn baby, we would all start out as girls and turn into boys!

2. Sleeping on your back can hurt the baby.

Myth. Imagine awakening to find yourself on your back and believing that you have caused some harm to your unborn baby.

Many women believe that blood flow will be reduced through the placenta if they lie on their backs. The origin of this myth can be found in some valid research originally performed in the 1960s and 1970s, which demonstrated that blood flow can be compromised when a mother is forced to labor lying flat on her back. Compression of the vena cava, a major vessel underlying the uterus, may occur in this position when the mother is in labor. This is why women are encouraged to be on their sides, sitting up or walking when they are in labor. Contractions themselves reduce blood flow to the baby for a certain portion of the peak of the contraction. A healthy term baby can tolerate this stress without difficulty. Laboring on one's back may cause fetal compromise when the baby is already stressed, overdue or preterm, or exposed to infection or a very long labor.

As far as the possibility of compromising blood flow by sleeping on one's back, the mother-to-be in this situation would generally be experiencing inadequate oxygen tensions, and this would be considered a high-risk pregnancy. And, if blood flow was indeed compromised, the mother would feel dizzy and very uncomfortable and she would shift to her side naturally. This again would be highly unusual.

If the pregnancy is high risk and hypertension, maternal kidney malfunction, severe water retention or fetal compromise is suspected, resting on the left side is often recommended, but, during a normal pregnancy, a woman may assume any position which she finds comfortable.

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