9 pregnancy myths

Misconceptions can hamper an otherwise healthy and happy pregnancy

Happy pregnant womanPregnancy is one of the most exciting times in a woman’s life and every pregnancy is truly a miracle. Though women have been having babies for centuries, there are still many myths associated with pregnancy.

Let’s take a look at some common myths.

Myth 1: Pregnancy care starts after you get pregnant

Most women register with their obstetrician for medical care after they get pregnant. In reality, the best time to start taking care of your unborn baby is before you conceive. Such care is called pre-pregnancy or pre-conception care. The beauty about pre-pregnancy care is that it is so simple: it only involves visiting your doctor before you are planning to get pregnant, rather than after you’ve missed your menstrual period.

The doctor:

  1. takes a medical history
  2. carries out a physical examination
  3. performs some simple laboratory tests.

These procedures are inexpensive, easy to conduct and signify examples of preventive medicine at its best.

Pre-pregnancy care also has other benefits. For instance, it allows the doctor to identify problems and rectify them at an early stage. If these problems are spotted after you become pregnant, the presence of the delicate embryo can delay detailed testing. A simple precaution you can take is to ensure a regular intake of a vitamin called folic acid that greatly reduces the chances of your baby being born with birth defects. It should be taken before you become pregnant and during the first six weeks of pregnancy.

Myth 2: Modern medical care is essential if you want to have a healthy baby

Modern obstetric care can ensure safe pregnancy and childbirth. Unfortunately, doctors have ‘medicalised’ pregnancy to such an extent that an otherwise normal event has been converted to one which needs rigorous and frequent medical assistance. Common tests which are misused include: blood tests for TORCH infections [TORCH is an acronym for a special group of infections that may be acquired by a woman during pregnancy]; ultrasound scans; and foetal monitoring.

Another area of misuse relates to the tests available for screening the baby for a possible birth defect. Many doctors routinely subject their patients to a ‘triple test’ during pregnancy to screen for birth defects. Some of these tests can be expensive, and risky as well. Thus, it is not uncommon for a mother to lose a healthy baby because of a test which was not really required in the first place.

Myth 3: More is better

A lot of medical technology during pregnancy is overused and misused. Foetal monitoring to document foetal wellbeing is a good example. While this procedure was initially designed to serve as a tool to monitor the wellbeing of the foetus and help reduce the need for medical intervention, today it is often used to justify an LSCS [Caesarean section] in order to forcibly take out a baby ‘in foetal distress’.

A much simpler alternative would be to opt for ‘kick counts’ in which the mother acts as her own foetal monitor, by counting how many times her baby moves. A baby who moves actively is sure to be healthy.

Myth 4: Hospitals are best places to deliver a baby

Despite advances in medical science, it is sad that the rituals associated with childbirth in hospitals have unfortunately been designed for the doctor’s convenience, rather than the patients’. Harmful practises include: forced induction of labour; routine use of enemas and intravenous drips, foetal monitoring, making the patient lie down [rather than allowing her to walk about]—it’s a long list.

Don’t let the hospital/clinic staff patronise you—you need to assert your rights. The presence of a doula [a person trained to provide support to women in labour] has been proven to be very helpful. Also, you should encourage your husband to participate in this adventure as actively as possible.

Recent developments show that many women in the West are turning back to natural childbirth once again, often either at home or what are known as ‘birthing centres’. In other words, they would like to keep as far away from a hospital as possible. Despite the fact many doctors scare women into believing that the hospital is the safest place to deliver a baby, recent international studies have shown that the home is often much safer and much more congenial for normal births.

For example, Holland, where over 60 per cent of births occur at home, under the supervision of midwives, can justifiably boast of having one of the world’s lowest neonatal mortality rates.

Myth 5: Mothers need anaesthesia to cope with the pain of labour and childbirth

Yet another myth that has become a norm is the application of anaesthesia for pain relief. Epidural analgesia has become a status symbol in most hospitals. We have mindlessly aped this Western ‘advance’, much to the detriment of both the mother and the child. Pain relief techniques should be used only when absolutely necessary. Otherwise simple techniques such as yoga and meditation can help you manage labour pain effectively.

Myth 6: A caesarean section [CS] is safer for the baby than normal vaginal birth

We are witnessing a virtual epidemic of caesarean sections today. Whereas a CS once used to be the method of last resort to deliver the baby, it has now become the norm in some hospitals, accounting for 50 per cent of all births. The reason, of course, is obvious: a CS is financially much more lucrative to the doctor than a normal delivery. As a senior obstetrician wryly put it: “The only indication for a normal delivery today seems to be if a patient delivers before the doctor reaches the hospital.”

Myth 7: It’s not safe to have sex during pregnancy, as this can hurt the baby

This is not true. The baby is safe inside its own private swimming pool in the uterus, and sex will not affect it. In fact, many women find that their libido increases dramatically during the first few weeks of pregnancy, and it’s safe to have sex if you so desire.

Myth 8: It’s not safe for pregnant women to fly

Modern aircraft cabins are pressurised, which means that it’s safe for women to fly in the first 32 weeks of their pregnancy. After this time, most airlines will not allow you to fly, because they are worried you may go into labour in the plane.

Myth 9: You can tell your baby’s gender by the way you are carrying

How you carry your baby depends upon many variables, including your build; the baby’s size; and whether the baby’s head has entered the pelvis or not. This has nothing to do with the baby’s gender—but you always have a 50 per cent chance of being right.

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