Unsolicited Pregnancy Advice, Examined
Truth vs. fiction
Does anyone receive more unsolicited advice than a pregnant woman? Now that my pregnancy is obvious to anybody, I'm getting it from all sides. Although it may be well-intentioned, most of the advice I receive from anyone but my doctor sounds like bunk. Here are five of the more bothersome bits of "wisdom" I have been told—and the truth behind them.
Get out of the hot tub! You'll roast your baby!
To some extent, this one is true. Most hot tubs are set somewhere between 100 and 105 degrees, and if you soak in a tub that hot, it may spell trouble. “More than a few minutes in a hot tub can raise maternal core temperature, which is associated with impaired brain development,” says Charles Lockwood, MD, the chief of obstetrics and gynecology at Yale-New Haven Hospital.
In addition, pregnancy makes it more likely that a woman would pass out from the heat—also not a good scenario. But what if you’re in a cooler hot tub?
Dr. Lockwood advocates staying out of hot tubs altogether. "If you stay in long enough, even at 98 degrees, it may raise your body temperature."
However, the West Coast doctors I consulted did not share his view. My own doctor has leagues of pregnant patients who have soaked in hot tubs with no ill effect. Keeping both sets of advice in mind, I feel safe finding nirvana drifting around in the backyard Jacuzzi for a few minutes with the temperature set low.
The bottom line: Don’t get overheated. It’s bad for you, and might be bad for the baby. Period.
You're not eating licorice, are you? You're going to go into preterm labor!
In 2001, the American Journal of Epidemiology published a study linking the consumption of licorice and premature births. This study involved Finnish women who ate glycyrrhizin (pure licorice root) each week throughout their pregnancies.
The good news is that you would really have to try to eat that much pure licorice, particularly since it’s only found in a few specialty brands of black licorice.
And if you did consume licorice containing glycyrrhizin, you are still at no risk, according to this study, unless you ate 500 mg or more each week throughout your pregnancy.
Dr. Lockwood also points out that licorice containing glycyrrhizin “does have a mild diuretic effect and could cause dehydration, which could trigger contractions."
The bottom line: Limit yourselves, ladies, but eating Twizzlers is not going to make you go into labor.
If someone presses the wrong part of your foot, you'll go into labor!
This one is based on the idea that certain reflexology points on the foot can trigger miscarriage or premature labor. But not one OB-GYN I spoke to, and not one study, can back up this theory.
There is currently no evidence that this is true, although an experienced foot reflexologist may help alleviate some of the swelling and pain experienced through a
The bottom line: There’s no reason to turn down a husband-powered foot rub.
Whatever you do, don't vacuum!
Perhaps I will be pilloried by the pregnant women of America who have used this piece of advice to inspire husbandly tidiness, but there is nothing to this theory, either. Vacuuming won't harm a pregnancy.
To be fair, intense physical activity, causing temperatures to rise and energy stores to be depleted, is associated with reduced infant birth weight and spontaneous abortion. However, this physical activity is more along the lines of marathon running, not house cleaning.
The bottom line: Like every other activity, if you start getting Braxton Hicks contractions and feeling light-headed whenever you vacuum, then let the dust bunnies accumulate.
Don't smell anything scented, it will make you go into labor!
Apparently, smelling some essential oils—e.g., lemongrass, peppermint, and rosemary—used in aromatherapy has been purported to be dangerous for pregnant women. Therefore, massage therapists tend to use scent-free oils during prenatal massages. The National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy suggests using well-diluted oils such as chamomile, jasmine, and lavender.
As with the foot rub question, none of the OBs I surveyed gave this any credence. My own doctor said that smelling these things might make me throw up, but that was about it.
The bottom line: Sniff away. Of course, if you plan to ingest any medicinal herbs or oils during pregnancy, I would run it past an OB first.