As an Ob/Gyn, expectant mothers frequently come to me with questions about what they are reading and hearing when it comes to pregnancy. In some cases, these myths may be misguided or create unnecessary concern. My goal here is to dispel some of those common pregnancy myths floating around.
Fetal heart rate predicts gender.
Traditionally, the gender of your baby is identified at the time of the anatomy ultrasound. This typically occurs around 18–20 weeks gestation. There are ways to find out sooner including maternal blood testing and earlier ultrasound. You may have also heard that a more rapid fetal heart rate correlates with female gender while a slower heart rate suggests male gender. This is not true. There are no gender differences in fetal heart rate. Normal baseline fetal heart rates range from the 110–160 beats per minute, and these baselines vary throughout the day. As the fetal nervous system develops, the fetal heart rate also varies with fetal activity. After 28 weeks gestation, the fetal heart often accelerates in response to fetal movement and then returns to baseline.
Caffeine is dangerous in pregnancy.
You do not need to avoid caffeine completely. Most experts agree that caffeine intake of less than 200 mg. per day is safe during pregnancy. This equates to one average 12 oz. cup of coffee per day. Green tea contains about 30 mg. per 8-oz. cup and black tea about 50 mg. per 8-oz. cup. Check your brews because these can vary.
The flu vaccine will give me the flu while I’m pregnant.
It is uncommon though possible to experience mild flu-like symptoms for up to 1–2 days after receiving the vaccine; however, most people have no symptoms at all. More importantly, the benefits of receiving the vaccine far outweigh any potential side effects. If you are not vaccinated and are exposed to the flu, illness can be severe and may result in the need for hospitalization. This is due to changes in the immune system, cardiovascular system, and lungs that occur during pregnancy. Additionally, high fevers experienced with the flu have been associated with birth defects. It is recommended that everyone above the age of 6 months get the flu vaccine every year. It is best to get the vaccine as soon as it becomes available (shoot for October). If you have an egg allergy, talk to your doctor first.
Exercise in pregnancy is dangerous.
If your pregnancy is uncomplicated, 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise per week is recommended. Regular exercise during pregnancy may decrease your risk of gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, and cesarean delivery. Activities that are generally safe include running, swimming, walking, biking, yoga, Pilates, and weight training. Avoid contact sports and activities that put you at risk of falling. Those who participate in strenuous activity before conception may continue that level of exercise but may need to make some modifications as the pregnancy progresses. If you have a complicated pregnancy, discuss an individualized plan with your health care provider.
I’m eating for two.
It’s true that nutrient requirements increase during pregnancy. However, the second human you are eating for is tiny. Discussing weight can be a touchy subject, but it is important to be transparent about weight gain goals because gaining excess weight can put you and your baby at risk. Gaining too much weight during pregnancy can cause you to have a large baby and can lead to postpartum weight excess. These are accompanied by a whole slew of both short and long-term health risks. Optimal weight gain during pregnancy depends on pre-pregnancy weight. During the first trimester, fetal organs are forming, but fetal weight gain is slow. A total of 1–4 lbs. during this time is appropriate. In the second and third trimesters weight gain increases to approximately 1 lb. per week for normal-weight women and a half lb. per week for overweight women. See total weight gain goals for the whole 40 weeks of pregnancy below:
- Underweight: 28–40 lbs.
- Normal weight: 25–35 lbs.
- Overweight: 15–25 lbs.
- Obese: 11–20 lbs.
Keep in mind these numbers are for a singleton pregnancy. If you have twins, triplets or more, these numbers are going to be higher.
During pregnancy, it is normal to have questions and to worry. It is vital to work with an experienced and trustworthy Ob/Gyn who makes you feel comfortable. Understanding what valuable information is and what needs to be ignored is a great first step in educating yourself. If you have any other questions about pregnancy, please consult the physicians here at Women’s Physicians of Jacksonville.
About the Author
Dr. Mera Keenan is an Ob/Gyn that currently works with Women’s Physicians of Jacksonville. Originally from Michigan, this talented and experienced physician has worked with women of all ages to assist through adolescence, childbearing years, the transition into menopause, and beyond. With a residency at Orlando Regional Medical Center, Dr. Keenan is proficient in performing minimally invasive surgery including robotic surgery and has received extensive training in high-risk pregnancies.