The Myths and Facts about Pregnancy

With the help of Yfat Reiss, co-author of How to Make a Pregnant Woman Happy, Dr. Phil clarifies what's true and what is merely an old wives' tale.



1. Pregnant women crave pickles and ice cream.


False. Not all women crave pickles and ice cream, but food cravings such as these are based in fact. In general, food cravings can be very helpful in telling you what your body needs.

Explanation: Women who crave pickles are really craving salt and may be mineral deficient, and specifically sodium deficient. Additional minerals are particularly important in pregnancy when women's bodies increase blood volume by up to 20 percent, so the existing minerals are diluted.

Many women crave junk foods such as ice cream during pregnancy because junk food is associated with comfort. Sugars found in sweet foods, as well as in breads, pasta and rice cause the body to produce serotonin, which makes women feel good.

2. Pregnant women who carry low = boy, or pregnancy acne = girl.

False. How a woman carries depends on her body type and whether she has been pregnant before, but does not reflect gender. Pregnancy acne is unrelated to gender.

Explanation: Women tend to carry lower or higher depending on their body type. Taller, thinner women appear to carry higher. Shorter and fuller women appear to carry lower. Neither has any correlation to gender. Also, in a second pregnancy, since abdominal muscles may be looser, the pregnancy may appear to be lower.

Pregnancy acne has nothing to do with gender; it is a result of natural hormonal changes.

3. Pregnant women must eat for two; they must gain 25 pounds.

False. North Americans already eat for two prior to pregnancy!

Explanation: Thirty years ago, the average size of babies was 6 pounds. Today the average size is 8 pounds. There are many reasons for this, but one reason is over-eating, particularly unfavorable carbohydrates (breads, pastas, rice), and not getting enough vegetables, protein and healthy fats.

As long as a pregnant woman eats properly — and as long as her doctor is not concerned — there is no set formula for how much she must gain. Generally, in the last trimester, the baby gains half a pound a week. So, as a general rule, if, during this time, the pregnant woman is not gaining a bit more than that, her doctor may be concerned and her diet should be re-evaluated.

4. Pregnant women shouldn't take baths.

False. Pregnant women shouldn't take HOT baths.

Explanation: Women are told not to take baths because HOT water — over 98 degrees — is unfavorable to the pregnancy. Taking a warm (NOT HOT!) bath with someone to help you get in and out of the bath safely can help:

Help the mother relax and alleviate anxiety about the health of her baby.

This is also why swimming is such a great pregnancy exercise.

5. Pregnant women shouldn't eat fish.

False. Although women are told not to eat fish due to mercury levels and fears of food poisoning, (a) women can choose fresh fish with low mercury levels and (b) fish oil has many benefits to the baby. After all, women in Japan don't stop eating sushi!

Explanation: Mercury and food poisoning are significant concerns. Women are individuals and every pregnancy is unique. Small white fish have lower mercury levels because they have been living in the ocean for a shorter period of time. Get fresh fish and smell it. A woman's sense of smell is heightened during pregnancy for a reason — the pregnant woman's body is helping her determine what is healthy for her baby.

Moreover, fish oil contains helpful Omega 3 fats, which actually enhance the development of the baby's brain, improve the baby's IQ, make the baby a better sleeper after birth, prevent premature contractions and premature labor, prevent high blood pressure during pregnancy, and act as an anti-inflammatory that prevent infection. If a pregnant woman is uncomfortable eating fish, she can visit her local health food store for fish oil supplements.

6. Pregnant women shouldn't change cat litter.


True. Due to a virus in cat feces called Toxoplasmosis.

Explanation: This virus can be very harmful to the pregnancy. But recognize that contact with kitty litter is not limited to changing the cat litter box. Since a cat walks on its litter, the virus can be tracked anywhere a cat walks, including its paws. Due to this, all contact with the cat must be limited and the house must be kept extra clean. Also, because much of our produce is grown outdoors where cats and other animals come in contact with it — even if it's organic -- recognize that this virus may be present on fruits and vegetables.

7. Pregnant women shouldn't dye their hair.

False. Sort of. Pregnant women should avoid anything chemicalized — from food to hair dye.

Explanation: Just like with the foods they eat, pregnant women should try to expose their bodies to as few artificial products as possible. Hair dyes are no exception. Of course, that means redheads can use natural hennas.

8. Pregnant women should not carry heavy items.


True. Nothing more than 25 pounds.

Explanation: The pregnant body is already burdened by additional weight, which throws off a woman's balance and makes her more likely to fall. This and other things that cause a diminished sense of balance in pregnant women should be avoided, as a fall after the first trimester may be devastating to the pregnancy — always requiring immediate medical attention.

9. All pregnant women have morning sickness.

False. Women and their pregnancy hormone levels are individual.

Explanation: The feeling of morning sickness is often caused by a rise in the female hormone estrogen during pregnancy. If the pregnant woman's body already produced a high level of estrogen prior to her pregnancy, additional estrogen may cause morning sickness in the first trimester — or not. It really depends on the individual.

10. Pregnant women shouldn't drink alcohol.


True. Alcohol is 'feto-toxic,' which means it is poisonous to the growing baby.

Explanation: Just one drink a day can create a noticeable problem in the pregnancy. If someone told you that one pill of a certain drug is damaging to your baby, would you take half that pill or even one quarter?

11. Men cannot REALLY be a part of the pregnancy.

False. Making your life partner into your pregnancy partner can make a big difference in how much you enjoy your pregnancy.

Explanation: Pregnancy can be the most wonderful opportunity to bring a couple together as a solid team. When men are given the means to assist, pregnancy can make the relationship between that man and his pregnant partner exceptionally strong — strength a couple will need when baby arrives!