Technology and medicine have transformed the experience of pregnancy for modern women. Prenatal medical testing can indicate the sex of your child, the amount of fluid in your uterus, the weight of your baby before birth and many other things.
Yet, pregnancy continues to inspire its own set of myths and tales. Parents who wouldn’t dream of skipping a prenatal appointment might wonder whether Great Aunt Sally’s predictions about junior’s gender could be on the money.
In many cases, hearing predictions about the baby’s sex or how much hair the baby will have is fun and harmless. “It’s all in good fun, and at the end of the day you’ll be right 50 percent of the time,” said Dr. Stacey Ehrenberg, a maternal fetal medicine specialist at Akron Children’s Hospital. “Just beware and stay clear of those who suggest you ingest something or recommend something that contradicts your provider’s medical treatment.”
While pregnancy myths may vary from generation to generation and from region to region, here are a few of the most common.
Myth: Standing on your head after sex can increase your chances of becoming pregnant.
Fact: Although some experts say that lying down after sex for 20 to 30 minutes can boost your chances of conception because it keeps the sperm inside you, standing on your head has not been proven to aid in conception (and you might hurt your neck while trying to do it!).
Myth: The shape and height of your belly can indicate your baby’s sex.
Fact: The popular belief that women carrying boys carry low and that women carrying girls carry high just isn’t true. The shape and height of your belly is determined by your muscle tone, uterine tone, the flexibility of your ligaments, your body shape and the position of the baby.
That’s why if you’re carrying low, someone may think you’re having a boy when in actuality the baby just dropped lower into the pelvis because you’re closer to delivery.
“It’s also about what number pregnancy it is for mom,” Dr. Ehrenberg said. “The more babies you carry, the more lax the muscles in your pelvic floor become, so you might carry the baby lower.”
So, what’s the most accurate way to determine your baby’s sex? Talk to your doctor about getting an ultrasound.
Myth: Fetal heart rate can indicate your baby’s sex.
Fact: A normal fetal heart rate is between 120 and 160 beats per minute (bpm), although some people think if it’s faster (usually above the 140 bpm range) it’s a girl and if it’s slower it’s a boy. But, there have been no studies that conclusively show that heart rate is a predictor for a baby’s gender.
Your baby’s heart rate will probably differ from prenatal visit to prenatal visit anyway.
“The heart rate is related to gestational age more than anything else,” Dr. Ehrenberg explained. “It also depends on your baby’s activity level at the time of the visit. If your baby’s sleeping, the heart rate may be 130 beats per minute. But if she’s excited, it could be 150 beats per minute.”
Myth: Frequent heartburn can indicate a hairy baby.
Fact: As your baby grows, your organs get displaced and crowded. The acid reflux pregnant women experience is due directly to their stomachs having nowhere to expand, forcing acid up the esophagus.
On top of that, a woman’s progesterone levels increase during pregnancy, which can relax the muscles in their bowels. Therefore, it can take longer for the stomach to empty food, causing the acids to sit in there longer.
“The sphincter muscle, the valve between the stomach and esophagus, also can become more relaxed,” Dr. Ehrenberg said. “When this happens, it allows stomach acids to splash back into the esophagus causing heartburn.”
Myth: The shape and fullness of your face during pregnancy can indicate your baby’s sex.
Fact: Every woman gains weight differently during pregnancy, and every woman experiences different skin changes.
“It’s a lot about genetics, but it also can depend on the time of year you’re pregnant,” Dr. Ehrenberg offered. “If you’re pregnant in the summer, you’ll retain more water and get more swollen because of the heat and humidity.”
If people tell you that because your face is round and rosy you’re having a girl, they might be right. But it’s just as likely that they’re wrong!