There are a lot of myths regarding what we can and cannot do during pregnancy. As a pre and post-natal coach, I hear a lot of pregnancy do’s and don’ts given to my clients from friends and family, particularly surrounding healthy eating and exercise during pregnancy that it can all be really confusing.
Here we will discuss the most common misconceptions to help us understand more about what is and what isn’t ok during pregnancy so we can live out our day to day lives rocking a healthy pregnancy and follow our workout regimes safely and with confidence.
This subject will covered be in two parts, this one covering the most common general misconceptions, of which are referenced from credible medical sites of whom conduct extensive medical and scientific research information provided, the second part covers misconceptions related to exercise which lies in my field of expertise.
Firstly, some general misconceptions:
Myth: Pregnant women must avoid anything containing caffeine (including chocolate!)
You may not be able to drink an entire pot of coffee in the morning and you may have to step it down from the Bulletproof coffee but you can still kick-start your day with a cup of coffee. Moderate consumption is safe with the recommended amount being 200mg/day.https://newsnetwork.mayoclinic.org/discussion/mayo-clinic-q-and-a-during-pregnancy-stick-to-the-basics-to-ensure-good-nutrition-for-baby/
If you usually buy from a high street coffee shop on your way to work it’s a good idea to check the caffeine content contained in your beverage.
(You can find it listed online for caffeine content in popular beverages such as Starbucks – https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/caffeine/art-20049372
My favourite is Caribou coffee as you can see in the picture! A small Americano contains 180mg so I make it last as long as possible and usually drink it an hour before my workout.
Myth: Pregnant women must avoid spa days and beauty salons
As for spa days – there are many places that offer pre-natal massages which have tremendous benefits, and a dip in the pool will feel so good as the water takes the weight of your pregnant body. However, it is best to avoid saunas and Jacuzzis until after giving birth due to the high temperature. If you plan to use a hot tub during your pregnancy taking the following action steps will reduce any risks.
There is no need for us to let our grey roots grow through! Majority of hair dyes have low concentration of chemicals, and are considered safe, only a tiny amount of dye will be absorbed by the skin, some however do have high concentrations that could cause complications, so tell your hairdresser that you are pregnant and they can offer you alternative options, such as using an ammonia free alternative. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2567273/
Myth: Sex is off the cards and can speed Labor in late pregnancy.
Getting busy is normal, healthy and completely safe and can be even moreenjoyable due to the increased blood flow to the sexual organs, breasts and vulva.
However, hormonal changes during pregnancy may also mean feeling exhausted especially in the early evenings and along with the bodily changes you may not feel so sexy.
Sex in the final trimester can cause cramps, just like Braxton Hicks contractions they won’t result in cervical changes. Semen does contain prostaglandins that can ripen the cervix but studies show sexual intercourse has no effect on inducing labor.https://www.webmd.com/baby/news/19990101/sex-to-induce-labor.
Myth: Eating for two means I can double my calorie intake
Being pregnant doesn’t mean we can gobble up whatever we fancy, even when cravings seem too difficult to resist. We actually only need up to an extra 300-500 calories a day as referenced from https://www.precisionnutrition.com/what-to-eat-during-pregnancy so technically we should be eating for about one and a fifth!
Eating a healthy and balanced diet is what’s important.
Myth: It doesn’t matter how much weight we gain during pregnancy
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to pregnancy weight gain. Various factors need to be considered to estimate the right amount of weight gain for your pregnancy, including your pre-pregnancy weight and body mass index (BMI). https://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancy-health/pregnancy-weight-gain/.
Gaining too much weight during pregnancy canbe dangerous for both mum and baby. Overweight mums have an increased risk of gestational diabetes, high blood pressure and more backaches. Gaining more than the recommended amount of weight can also lead to delivery complications and increase the amount of weight you hold onto after pregnancy.
A nutritious diet and regular exercise can keep unnecessary weight gain at bay.
Myth: Pregnant women should avoid all seafood
Pregnant women can still eat cooked fish low in mercury such as salmon and tilapia, 2-3 times a week. The omega 3 fatty acids such as DHA are vital for a healthy pregnancy, benefitting both mum and baby. However, it’s advisable to avoid seafood high in mercury such as tuna, mackerel or swordfish, and raw fish should be avoided due to the risk of food poisoning. Doctors want you to consume seafood, it’s good for your overall health especially during pregnancy. Check out this link for tips on how to stay safe when eating seafood. https://www.healthline.com/health/pregnancy/crab-and-seafood#1
Myth: Pregnant women must say no to cheese
Are you kidding?! It’s all we crave in the second trimester!
Cheddar, feta and parmesan are all game! It’s the un-pasteurized cheese that we need to avoid, like goat’s cheese, as they are mold ripened soft cheeses that can contain bacteria which may harm your baby. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/foods-to-avoid-pregnant/
Myth: Pregnant women should avoid all medications
Some medications can be dangerous during pregnancy and it’s always best to check with your doctor about any medications during pregnancy. However, don’t be discouraged if you are suffering with allergies or intense headaches as many medications are classified as safe.
For example, pain relief such as Tylenol containing Acetaminophen is viewed as safe. Allergy tablets such as Claritin containing loratadine are also viewed as safe. For a list of safe OTC (over the counter) medications to take during pregnancy see https://www.webmd.com/women/pregnancy-medicine#1
Myth: Pregnant women shouldn’t fly
If you have a healthy pregnancy, flying will not harm your baby. If in doubt, always check with your doctor and some airlines might ask for a clearance letter, so best to have one anyway. If you do travel, take regular breaks to walk up and down the aisles to encourage blood circulation in your legs to decrease the risk of blood clotting. Pregnant or not it’s great advice to follow.
Here are some additional tips you can follow to stay safe when flying during pregnancy https://www.webmd.com/baby/taking-to-the-skies-pregnant-and-safe#1
Third trimester travelling is not encouraged in case you go into labor on the plane and force the plane to land!
**Please note – Working as a flight attendant can mean additional risks to your pregnancy. Most airlines will stop your flying as soon as you find out your pregnant.
Myth: Pregnant women must stay away from cats.
There is no need to give away your pets! Handling cat feces can put you at a risk of toxoplasmosis that can cause birth defects so be sure to wear gloves when cleaning away cat litter, or gardening or get someone else to do it. For helpful tips on reducing your risk of environmental exposure to Toxoplasma see https://www.cdc.gov/parasites/toxoplasmosis/gen_info/pregnant.html
Myth: Pregnant women can help stretch marks disappear with cream application.
Stretch marks happen when your body grows quickly for any reason. As your tummy grows to make room for a baby, your skin stretches. Hormones that surge when you’re pregnant may also weaken skin fibers and cause stretch marks.
Whether you get stretch marks or not has a lot to do with your collagen and how well your skin stretches, which is usually hereditary. There isn’t much proof that any of the creams actually make a difference https://www.webmd.com/beauty/what-are-stretch-marks#2. For tips on how to prevent stretch marks by improving skin elasticity follow the advice given by https://americanpregnancy.org/your-pregnancy/prevent-pregnancy-stretchmarks/
Myth: You should be at complete rest during pregnancy
It is common in some cultures where if you are pregnant they recommend you to stay rested and avoid all exercise and stressful situations. This is not recommended and can pose challenges and health risks, and should only be followed in rare circumstances – such as medical reasons – and even then its best to discuss with your health care provider whether pelvic rest can be an alternative.
However, things are changing thanks to more pre-natal specialists and exercise courses. Over the last few years I have seen more ladies focusing on staying healthy, training through pregnancy and reaping the health benefits for mum and baby, the levels of gestational diabetes is also decreasing as a result. For more information on bed rest and its side effects, pelvic rest and dealing with movement restrictions see
I hope you have found these useful and feel more comfortable with carrying on your usual pre-pregnancy habits. My next post will cover pregnancy myths related to exercise – stay tuned!