I don’t know about you, but before I was pregnant, I kind of dreaded it, and not because I didn’t feel ready for kids… I just hated to hear that looong list of things that one shouldn’t do while pregnant. It sounded like an anal, draconian checklist of ways to ruin my life. No sushi, no alcohol whatsoever, no coffee, no hot tub, and while you’re at it, you’d better take it easy and keep your exercise to a minimum. It sounded like cruel torture for someone like myself, who loves to work out and relax her muscles in the hot tub afterwards and–yes–likes her sushi, her cup of morning coffee, and some alcohol. I found myself wondering whether I’d be spending a long and miserable 9 months sitting on my couch becoming a beached whale, craving just one drop of wine or Starbucks coffee, with my un-worked body crying out for exercise.
Luckily, the things I mentioned above are just some of the many pregnancy myths devised in the name of preventing any and all mishaps. All of these things can cause harm to the unborn baby if they’re done excessively or carelessly. As a result, in our lawsuit-hungry society, it’s become necessary for pregnancy recommendations to be written in absolutes.
However, we’re more educated than that. As a pharmacist who spent years researching medical and pharmaceutical literature and drawing my own conclusions, I knew it was time to dig deeper. Why can’t I go in the hot tub? Or drink the occasional small glass of wine? Or do any of the other things I mentioned in the first paragraph–in moderation, of course?
It turns out I can–if I do these things responsibly and intelligently. Here are the 5 most bothersome (to me, anyway) pregnancy myths–demystified!
- Absolutely no alcohol – See a woman with a baby bump holding a beer, and most people in our society are full of instant judgment. And it’s not their fault, it’s what our medical community tells us. American guidelines tell us to drink no alcohol during pregnancy. However, UK guidelines tell a different story: “Women who are pregnant or trying to conceive should avoid alcohol altogether. However, if they do choose to drink, to minimise the risk to the baby, we recommend they should not drink more than one or two units once or twice a week and should not get drunk.” I go by the UK guidelines in my own pregnancy, because it was approved by my OB/gyne and I have educated myself on the guidelines, as well as what constitutes “a unit” of alcohol. Click the link above for examples of a unit and further details, and be sure to clear this with your own doctor before you drink during pregnancy.
- No sushi whatsoever – Cautious healthcare providers have two main concerns when dealing with sushi in pregnancy: mercury content in the fish and the possibility of getting food poisoning from certain bacteria that may be found in improperly prepared raw fish. Because of this, the blanket statement, “No sushi in pregnancy,” is made fairly regularly. However, fish contains omega-3 and other vitamins and minerals that are essential in a baby’s brain and body development. Therefore, it’s important to understand which fish contain acceptable levels of mercury. This article gives an awesome breakdown of fish containing “safe” and “unsafe” levels of mercury. As far as the raw fish debate, I’ve found numerous sources, including this one, that state that raw sushi is okay during pregnancy as long as it has been flash-frozen, a procedure that all reputable sushi restaurants perform in order to kill any bacteria and parasites in the fish. I cleared this with my doctor, who agreed and added that it’s fine to enjoy occasional sushi at my go-to sushi place. The bottom line: be informed and ask your doctor.
- Don’t drink coffee – One of my mom’s favorite things to say when I was a kid and doing something dangerous was, “I didn’t drink one cup of coffee when I was pregnant with you!” Apparently, this was a thing in the 80s, and there are still people who think pregos shouldn’t drink any caffeine whatsoever. However, the new recommendations are to limit caffeine intake in pregnancy to no more than 200 mg per day, so you can still have that small cup of morning coffee in a normal pregnancy. Thank goodness! Of course, things might be different if you have medical conditions, so always ask your doctor first.
- No hot tub – I looove the hot tub, and when I heard that hot tubs in pregnancy were not recommended, I was bummed. It turns out there’s a good reason for this: Improper use of the hot tub can bring your body temperature above 102 degrees Fahrenheit, which can cause neural tube defects in the baby, especially in early pregnancy. However, a little research confirmed that hot tubs can be used in moderation during pregnancy, if you’re educated about how to use them. Namely, use them for 10 minutes or less, and monitor the water temperature. (It should be 100 degrees or less.) For further tips, check out this article.
- Don’t exercise – I’ve heard a lot of people say that pregnant women should “take it easy” and “avoid exercising,” which is totally ridiculous, especially for those of us who had a definitive exercise routine pre-pregnancy. Exercise in pregnancy is healthy and beneficial. Not only does it allow you to stay fit and toned throughout your 9 months, it allows you to get back to your pre-pregnancy body faster after you give birth. That said, pregnant women should be informed about the best exercises to stay in shape as the baby grows. I am doing the All-Belly Pregnancy workout in addition to my regular yoga and cardio, and it’s fabulous, since it provides step-by-step exercise routines and demonstrates safe and effective exercises in every trimester! Highly recommended!
17 weeks in, I can honestly say I’m having a happy, healthy, and relaxed pregnancy. Life does go on while you’re pregnant, so before you go saying no to things you love just because you might have “heard” you should, make sure to educate and inform yourself first. And above all, enjoy and embrace your preg days!!