Pregnancy Advice: Old Wives Tales Vs. Science | Fit Pregnancy

Old Wives Vs. Science

Find out how much of the pregnancy advice you receive is backed by research, and how much is mere folk wisdom.


When it comes to pregnancy counsel, female family members, pregnant friends and even experienced moms don’t always know best. Yet many expectant women are more apt to listen to those sources than they are to follow medical advice, a 2010 study published in the Journal of Health Psychology found.

“Women wanted to place scientific advice above that of their mothers and grandmothers,” says study author Paula Nicolson, Ph.d., a professor of health and social science at the University of London. “However, on an everyday basis, many opted for the family advice.” To help you separate pregnancy facts from fiction, we examine the science (or lack there of) behind several common beliefs. see if you can tell the difference.

Folk Wisdom Or Science? Ginger and acupressure relieve morning sickness.

Answer: Folk wisdom

Bad news for the 70 percent of pregnant women who experience nausea and vomiting in early pregnancy: There is no truly reliable treatment for morning sickness. Authors of a Cochrane systematic review analyzed 27 studies involving more than 4,000 pregnant women and found that not a single commonly used remedy, including ginger, acupuncture, acupressure, vitamin B6 and anti-nausea drugs, could be deemed effective.

“[In this analysis] we found little evidence to support these popular therapies,” says study co-author Dónal O’Mathúna, Ph.d., a senior lecturer at Dublin City University school of Nursing in ireland. But this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try them (or any other safe treatments OK’d by your doctor). “Some of these therapies might work for some women,” O’Mathúna says. Plus, the placebo effect can be very powerful.

Folk Wisdom Or Science? If you suffer from heartburn during pregnancy, your baby is likely to be born with a full head of hair.

Answer: Science

“Folksy” sounding but true. Researchers at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore found that when pregnant women reported moderate heartburn, they had hairy newborns 82 percent of the time; the majority of heartburn-free women gave birth to bald babies.

Surprised? So was the study’s lead author, Kathleen a. Costigan, R.N., M.P.H., director of the hospital’s Fetal Assessment Center. “I had heard this old wives’ tale hundreds of times and used to tell my patients it was nonsense,” she says. “We undertook this study thinking that we would debunk the myth!” Researchers surmise that higher levels of estrogen and progesterone, the pregnancy hormones that stimulate fetal hair growth, also relax the esophageal sphincter, allowing stomach acid to back up into the esophagus and cause gastric reflux, aka heartburn.


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