You might have heard the shape of your bump is an indicator of your baby’s gender. (It isn’t.) That your food cravings during pregnancy will show up as birthmarks on its skin. (They won’t.) And if you’ve been told having wide hips means an easy birth, we’re sorry to burst your bubble – this refers to the width of your pelvis, not any additional covering!
There are family favourites, such as first babies on your father’s side always being at least ten days late. (What about in your mother’s family, though…or your partner’s?) Most myths are downright ridiculous, but others have at least a grain of truth.
Here are six of our favourites which have turned out to be grounded in fact.
1If you eat lots of bananas, you’re more likely to have a boy
Scientists have confirmed this one is true – studies have shown that women who eat a diet high in potassium are more likely to give birth to a boy. Of course, other foods are rich in this mineral, including sweet potatoes, spinach, avocados and salmon – so these could be a contributing factor too.
The study failed to find evidence to support another old wives’ tale though – that a high calcium intake was more likely to result in a baby girl.
2It’s bad luck to touch cats when you’re pregnant
Don’t worry – if you’ve got a cat you don’t need to banish it while you’re expecting. This story sprang up in years gone by, when hygiene and understanding how animals can carry disease wasn’t as widely understood as today.
The danger comes from toxoplasmosis, a parasite which cats can spread through their faeces and which can harm your unborn child, but it’s easily dealt with by being vigilant.
Ideally, you shouldn’t change or clean your kitty’s litter box while pregnant; if you must, wear gloves and then still wash your hands thoroughly afterwards. Wash your hands after petting your cat, wear gloves while gardening, and ensure any fresh fruits or vegetables are washed, peeled and cooked thoroughly.
3Pegging out the laundry can get the baby tangled in the umbilical cord
While this isn’t literally true, it’s grounded in fact. It’s not the actual hanging out of clothes that causes the problem, but the physical position of standing with both arms lifted for any length of time.
If you planned on standing this way for hours at a time then yes, there could be a problem – but the short time it takes to peg out your washing won’t cause a problem, and nor do you need to refrain from stretching your arms above your head to ease your muscles. That said, if anyone offers to help you with the chores, you’d be crazy to turn them down…
4If you suffer with heartburn, your baby will have more hair
A study for the journal Birth followed a group of 64 women throughout pregnancy; 28 of these reported suffering from moderate or excessive heartburn, and 23 ended up with babies that had a higher than average amount of hair. Of 12 women who suffered no heartburn at all, ten gave birth to babies that had less hair than average.
The researchers found it was the pregnancy hormones responsible for hair growth in the womb that also relaxed the muscles responsible for keeping stomach acid under control – so, indirectly, the worse your heartburn, the more likely you are to have a hairier baby.
5Evil spirits will steal your unborn baby if you sit on the doorstep (or a wall)
Sitting somewhere chilly or draughty can lower your immune system. You might feel cold and you’ll be more susceptible to any bugs and illnesses floating around. Squatting to sit on a doorstep or low wall can also cause your waist area to ache when you’re pregnant.
In the olden days, any sickness while pregnant carried a much higher risk to the baby and miscarriage was far more common. So, the story grew that it was the evil spirits who were responsible for stealing your baby if you were foolish enough to sit on the doorstep.
6Sleeping on your back will choke your baby
Medical professionals agree pregnant women shouldn’t sleep on their backs after 20 weeks, as the weight of the uterus could compress the vena cava – a major blood vessel. This would disrupt the flow of blood to your baby and potentially cause severe problems.
However, most pregnant women would agree that as you get bigger it’s not a comfortable position anyway, and the reality is you would feel sick and breathless long before there was any danger to your unborn baby. So, if you wake in the night and find yourself on your back, don’t worry – just roll onto your side and go back to sleep.