Common pregnancy myths and misconceptions

Lucy Upton, Specialist Paediatric Dietitian and Nutritionist

 

Pregnant women are given lots of advice surrounding healthy eating and lifestyle, but this is often based on old or outdated information. There are so many myths and misconceptions floating around that it can be difficult for mums-to-be to tell fact from fiction. Here are our tips and guidance, so you can feel confident about having a healthy pregnancy.

Pregnant women should ‘eat for two’
It’s a common belief that a pregnant woman can expect to ‘eat for two’! But overeating can place both you and your baby at risk of health problems. Eating a healthy, balanced diet is what’s important. The Department of Health recommends that calorie intake should increase by 200kcal per day but only in the third trimester.

Avoid coffee and tea during pregnancy
Excess caffeine intake has been shown to increase the risk of low birth weight, but it doesn’t need to be cut out altogether! Moderate consumption is safe, with the recommended amount being 200mg/day – about the same as two mugs of instant coffee or tea.

Eating peanuts will cause your baby to have allergies
It is perfectly safe to eat peanuts (or any nuts!) unless you are allergic to them yourself. 

Avoid eating fish during pregnancy
Two servings of cooked fish a week (one of which should be oily) is a healthy way of consuming vital omega-3 fatty acids. Raw fish, however, should be avoided due to the risk of food poisoning. Swordfish, shark and marlin should also be avoided due to high mercury levels. 

A small baby means an easier birth
Giving birth to a small baby will not necessarily be easier. The pelvis expands to allow the delivery of babies of all sizes.

Eating spicy foods can induce labour
There is no scientific evidence to support this common pregnancy myth.

Avoid exercise during pregnancy
It’s best for you and the baby to stay active during pregnancy. Moderate exercise helps keep pregnant women fit, reduces complications of pregnancy and labour, and helps restore body shape after birth. Like all adults, pregnant women should aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity activity on five or more days per week. 

Smoking and drinking will not harm the baby
Smoking is the biggest risk-factor for sudden infant death, and increases the risk of stillbirth, premature birth, miscarriage and low birth weight babies. The safest approach is not to smoke or drink alcohol at all to keep risks to your baby to a minimum. Even small amounts of alcohol consumption can lead to long-term harm for your baby and the more alcohol consumed, the bigger the risk.

Found this helpful? Why not share with your family and friends? And for further information on a healthy diet and lifestyle during pregnancy, read more at Ten Steps for a Healthy Pregnancy.

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Further Reading

  • Lucy Upton, Specialist Paediatric Dietitian and Nutritionist   Childhood obesity is one of the most serious public health challenges of the 21st century, with recent NHS figures revealing that one child under five is admitted to hospital because of obesity every week. The coronavirus pandemic and resultant lockdown has challenged already difficult circumstances and during this time many children were consuming more higher fat and/or sugar snacks, spending longer in front of screens and missing out on regular activity including physical education classes.
  • Dr Gill Harris, Consultant Paediatric Clinical Psychologist   Following his recent recovery from coronavirus, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has publicly blamed excess weight for his need for intensive care. He has subsequently declared a war on the UK’s obesity crisis and is planning a post-pandemic public health drive to battle the growing problem.
  • Katie Fox, Primary School Teacher   Due to coronavirus, playgroups and nurseries are shut and those children due to start school in a few months will be out of routine and away from friends. It is understandable that many parents are worried about getting their children ready for September. Children learn and progress at different rates so there are no set criteria on what they need to be able to know or do when they first start nursery, but if they have had some experience learning at home it could help to make it a smoother transition. Turn taking games, imaginative play, reading, and developing fine and gross motor skills can promote independence, build confidence and help develop simple skills.