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Pregnancy myths dispelled

04/10/2017

By Olivia Goudy

Herald-Standard

It’s not unusual for advice — good and bad — to circulate among soon-­to-­be mothers during the months leading up to the exciting day.

Some advice is good, while others have been disproved or misconstrued over the years.

According to Lea Walls, clinical director of the Family Beginnings Birthing Center at Uniontown Hospital, there have been a lot of misconceptions about dietary restrictions in particular. Walls used her own pregnancy in the early 1980s as an example, noting that at the time, there wasn’t any emphasis on watching what she ate.

“Now we hear that you should avoid deli meats, raw foods, unpasteurized liquids, fish with mercury, etc.,” Walls said. “The list goes on and on.”

“Today, women have to either check online or with their physicians before they eat just about anything, which can be a good thing,” she added. “If you can keep an expectant mother healthy, she’ll be less sick. Less illnesses prevent things like premature labor or birth defects.”

Walls noted that pregnant women being cautious about what they’re eating can be good. Learning as they go and making them think twice, she said, is key.

“How many times do we eat raw cookie dough?” Walls asked with a laugh. “Everybody does it. But if you’re pregnant, you have to think twice.”

Exercise

According to a report published recently in the Journal of the American Medical Association, about 45 percent of current mothers-­to-­be begin their pregnancy in an overweight or obese state, as compared to 24 percent in 1983. Instead of the age­old notion that pregnant women are “eating for two” and need constant rest, officials say “the coin has been flipped.”

“The list of exercise­during­pregnancy benefits is length, and includes: less macrosomia (birth of children weighing more than 8 pounds 13 ounces), less gestational diabetes, less pre­eclampsia, fewer Caesarean­section deliveries,” the report says, “less low­back pain, less pelvic girdle pain and lower frequency of urinary incontinence.”

The study notes that the exercise recommendations are the same as those for non-pregnant women, which includes 20 to 30 minutes per day on most days of the week.

“Pregnancy is no longer considered a state of confinement,” according to the authors of the Viewpoint report. “An active lifestyle during pregnancy is safe and beneficial.”

Walls agreed, noting that her advice to pregnant women is to continue their daily activities, unless told otherwise by physicians because of complications.

“Do what you’ve always done. If you jog five miles, continue to do that,” she said.

Those nine months, however, are not a time to begin something new.

“Now is not the time to start a new exercise plan,” she added. Instead, she said to listen to your body. During pregnancy, the body is naturally more tired. Walls said to not fight the 20­-minute power nap during the day if it’s needed.

Misconceptions

In addition to exertion and dietary guidelines, advice pertaining to other daily activities has circulated for generations.

According to Walls, high on that list is the myth that it’s OK to have the baby early.

“Some mothers ask doctors to induce labor early. That’s not the way to go — electively choosing to give birth early,” Walls said.

Every day in the uterus does a world of good for the baby, she said.

Some women have to have their babies early due to complications, and that’s understandable, Walls said.

“But you’re doing the baby a lifetime of favors if you wait until term. The closer to 39 and 40 weeks, the better,” she said.

Mary Jul Phillips, a community liaison and education specialist for Uniontown Hospital’s Family Beginnings Birthing Center, said another common misconception deals with what will happen during labor, particularly pain management.

“Speak directly with your healthcare provider,” Phillips said, noting that various sources can lead someone in the wrong direction. “We have educational resources, childbirth classes, breastfeeding information and a large amount of professional resources available for the community.”

Phillips recommended that ultimately, one of the biggest benefits for any expectant mother is education. “Make yourself aware of these things,” Walls said.

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