People have lots of ideas about what's a fact when it comes to pregnancy; some of them have been circulated through generations and across pop culture for so long that they just feel inherently true. Sometimes these are harmless and even fun, but sometimes they can cause real confusion. We poured through the clinical research to set the record straight on some commonly held myths about pregnancy.
Myth: Everyone is comfortable and happy when pregnant
Pregnancy can be a complex and emotional experience, with highs and lows. Many people feel a mix of overwhelmed or anxious, in addition to the more talked about excited feelings about pregnancy – there is no right way to feel.
- It is an experience with tremendous change, both to your life and your body, and just because you may be excited about having a baby doesn't mean that you have to love all of the different changes, and especially not all of the time. It is totally legitimate to feel a range of feelings, and talking about those feelings more openly is an important part of impacting cultural acceptance for this reality.
- It is also important to understand and accept that your body is going through monumental hormonal shifts, which result in exhaustion and mood swings (there are chemical and neurological explanations for this experience), you might be feeling nauseous and vomiting, and there are changes to your lifestyle that my also be taking place (eating, drinking, and physical activity habits).
The incredible body changes you're experiencing, together with the anticipation of change associated with having a baby, could feel more stressful and overwhelming for you than anything else—and if that's where you are, that's totally normal and totally ok. It is also totally normal and ok if you're feeling nothing but great and happy! Wherever you are is fine. Rest assured that there are lots of other expecting parents who can identify with you.
If you have experienced previous pregnancy loss, this feeling may be even more complex for you, which is also okay.
Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders (PMADs) are feelings of depression, sadness, anxiety, and intrusive thoughts that can occur during pregnancy or the first year postpartum.
- There has historically been a larger focus on postpartum depression (PPD), which is the most talked-about PMAD, but other serious disorders can also occur. This also includes anxiety and psychosis (intense feelings of confusion, paranoia, or hallucinations).
- For help and resources, visit Postpartum Support International.
Myth: Everyone gets morning sickness
While morning sickness is very common (nausea occurs in 50-90% of all pregnancies, and vomiting occurs in more than half of all pregnancies), it certainly does not impact everyone. It’s not inevitable that you’ll feel sick. Nausea and vomiting in pregnancy isn’t confined to the morning either — it can happen anytime or even all day.
- One study showed that 80% of those experiencing “morning sickness” felt sick all day. Symptoms typically occur in early pregnancy, peaking in intensity around weeks 8 to 12 and then often subsiding after the first trimester.
The hormone hCG, along with nausea and vomiting, typically peaks towards the end of the first trimester (weeks 8-12) and resolves by weeks 10-12 for most and by the 20th week of pregnancy for the remainder of people. If you are pregnant with twins or multiples, you may have higher hCG levels and higher rates of nausea and vomiting.
Severe nausea and vomiting, known as Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG), affects 1.2% of pregnancies and should be managed closely with a healthcare provider. If you are throwing up daily or more than three times a day, you should discuss options with your healthcare provider.
Read here for more information about nausea and vomiting of pregnancy and what you can do about it.
Myth: Marijuana and CBD help with morning sickness
Marijana and CBD are often used to treat nausea and vomiting in cancer patients, but their use in pregnancy is not recommended. Current research on safety and effectiveness is limited and inconclusive. Cannabis use in pregnancy has been associated with developmental and mental health disorders in infants and children. Another study found that cannabis use was associated with a significantly increased risk of preterm birth. There is even more limited research on using CBD (cannabidiol) in pregnancy, and it should be avoided until further research can validate safety and efficacy.
Myth: More heartburn means a baby with lots of hair at birth
You may have heard about a connection between the severity of heartburn and the amount of hair the baby is born with. While this one is a fun explanation, there is very little evidence relating newborn hair and heartburn. Having heartburn doesn't affect your baby’s development one way or the other.
Myth: When you’re pregnant, you’re eating for two
Sadly this one is not true! Moreover, doubling your food intake during pregnancy could lead to excessive weight gain and put you at risk for gestational diabetes and other complications.
A more accurate statement would be that you should be eating for 1.15 or 1.2 — which works out to an average of 300 extra calories per day throughout your pregnancy. This need for extra calories doesn’t begin immediately after conception though.
- Research shows that calorie needs remain about the same during the first trimester, then increase by about 340 calories per day during the second trimester and 450 calories per day during the third trimester.
- In spite of the numbers, hyper-focusing on or counting calories is NOT recommended. Focus on nutrition, and on your diet being well-rounded and inclusive of a variety of nutrient-dense, whole, and minimally processed foods, and listen to your body’s hunger cues.
- A prenatal vitamin is generally recommended to ensure you get the full spectrum of support during pregnancy.
Myth: Coffee is not allowed when you’re pregnant
Research safely supports moderate coffee consumption in pregnancy, ranging from two to four cups daily. While this guidance varies between providers and practices and is often inconsistent, the research is fairly clear.
- High coffee consumption, meaning 4-8 or more cups daily, especially in the first trimester, carries a potential increased risk for miscarriage (caveat: the study results may have been complicated by the effects of nausea).
Myth: The sex of your baby can be predicted by signs or controlled
How you are “carrying” your pregnancy is also not associated with the gender of a baby. So if you are carrying high, it’s not necessarily a girl; and if you’re carrying low, it’s not necessarily a boy.
- The way you carry likely has more to do with your own body — for example, carrying a baby high may be due to tighter abdominal muscles, while carrying a baby lower may be due to weaker abdominal muscles, whether that’s related to fitness levels or previous pregnancies.
Also, if you are conceiving naturally, there is no way to control the sex of your baby or predict the sex of your baby.
Myth: “Pregnancy glow” is universal
The pregnancy glow is real for some people and typically describes a rosy, slightly dewy complexion. This is due to two factors.
- First, your body’s blood volume increases by 50% throughout your pregnancy, which can increase circulation, leading to a rosier look.
- Second, certain androgen hormones increase during pregnancy, which increases oil production.
Sebum (the skin’s natural oils) can make your face appear slightly shiny or dewy. Increasing oil production could trigger new acne outbreaks or worsen existing acne.
- If hormones are wreaking havoc on your skin, there isn’t much you can do to prevent that during pregnancy.
- However, you may be able to lessen the severity of acne by developing good skin care practices and most skin changes are temporary and resolve after you give birth.
Read more about Skin Changes During Pregnancy here.
Myth: Prenatal vitamins make your hair grow
You may notice that your hair volume or thickness changes during pregnancy. Contrary to popular belief, thicker hair in pregnancy is not due to prenatal vitamins.
- This is because hormonal changes cause hair to remain in a growth phase for longer than normal, causing you to shed less hair.
- After delivery, the drop in hormone levels signals a shift that makes hair follicles shed hair faster. This is known as postpartum hair loss (Telogen effluvium), typically occurring in months two through four after delivery. While hair shedding can be significant, you will not go bald — most of this is shedding the excess hair you collected during pregnancy.
Read more about Body Changes during pregnancy here
Myth: You can prevent stretch marks with oils or creams
Unfortunately, no solid evidence exists that any oil, lotion, or cream will effectively prevent stretch marks. Stretch marks can affect up to 90% of pregnant individuals and appear on your belly, breasts, butt, and thighs as the supportive tissue under your skin rapidly stretches during pregnancy — especially common during the third trimester.
- These lines can initially appear pink, reddish-purple, or dark brown and then fade to a color lighter than your skin tone.
- Initially, the affected skin may also feel tight and itchy.
- Stretch marks may not always disappear but tend to fade significantly over time.
Besides avoiding excess weight gain during pregnancy, there isn’t much you can do to prevent stretch marks.
- While there are a variety of stretch mark creams on the market, no single treatment has proven to be completely effective at preventing them. Though they may not be a magic solution, regular use may help alleviate stretch marks' itching and discomfort.
Read more about Skin Changes During Pregnancy Here.
What about all those other myths?
This list of common pregnancy myths is by no means comprehensive. So if you’re wondering if something that sounds a little strange is actually true, reach out to your healthcare provider, who can help set the record straight.