24 pregnancy myths that doctors want you to stop believing

If you’re pregnant, it may seem like everyone has advice to share on what you can and can’t do. But the reality is that many of those well-intentioned tips are more fiction than fact.

The Insider video team debunked common pregnancy myths with two OB-GYNs, Dr. Dena Goffman, a high-risk obstetrician at New York-Presbyterian and Columbia University Medical Center, and Laura Riley, gynecologist-in-chief at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center.

They busted myths about everything from due date prediction to whether or not a baby in utero can catch a cold.

Keep reading to discover the 25 common pieces of pregnancy advice you can stop believing now.


Myth: Pregnant women need to eat twice as much as they did before.

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“You really need only about 200 extra calories a day over a normal American diet,” said Riley. “And that’s assuming you’re starting pregnancy at a normal weight.”


Myth: It’s OK to drink a glass of wine when you’re pregnant.

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While many people think that one glass of wine while pregnant won’t hurt, that may not be the case. “You really should not consume any alcohol while pregnant,” said Dr. Dena Goffman, a high-risk OB at New York-Presbyterian and Columbia University Medical Center.

She added that it’s also not safe to consume alcohol while breastfeeding because it can get into breast milk.


Myth: Your belly reveals the baby’s gender.

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It doesn’t matter if you’re carrying high or low – you can’t tell the baby’s gender from the shape of your belly, Goffman said.

Riley also busted the myth that the baby’s heart rate can predict whether you’re having a boy or girl. A high or low heart rate depends on how much the baby is moving.


Myth: Cocoa butter prevents stretch marks.

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While slathering on some cocoa butter may be a great way to moisturize, the cream doesn’t have any stretch mark preventing properties, and neither do any other products, Riley said.

Whether or not you get stretch marks is “probably genetic,” she told Insider, adding that “if your pregnancy gets really big, you’re more likely to get stretch marks.”


Myth: You can give a cold to a baby in utero.

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Babies in utero can’t catch colds. However, they can catch the flu, “which is why we tell you to get a flu shot,” Riley said.


Myth: What you eat during pregnancy can influence the baby’s palate.

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“I don’t think there is a shred of evidence to support that,” said Riley.

That doesn’t mean that what pregnant people eat isn’t important, though. A healthy pregnancy diet does “set your baby off to a good start in terms of its overall nutrition and good health,” according to Riley.


Myth: Pregnant women shouldn’t drink coffee.

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Coffee in moderation is fine for pregnant people, according to Riley, but that “in the first trimester, excessive amounts of coffee have been associated with a higher risk of miscarriage.”

Riley added that after the first trimester, coffee won’t hurt.


Myth: Pregnant women shouldn’t eat hot dogs.

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According to Goffman, pregnant people can eat hot dogs without fear, as long as they’re fully cooked and eaten in moderation.

“There used to be a fair amount of conversation about the amount of nitrates and hotdogs,” Goffman said, “but I think the evidence suggests that unless you’re eating really excessive amounts of hot dogs that it’s probably okay to enjoy one.”


Myth: Pregnant people shouldn’t pet cats.

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There’s no risk if a pregnant person pets a cat, Goffman told Insider. There is slight cause for concern when it comes to pregnant people cleaning a dirty litter box, though.

In rare cases, it can lead to the disease toxoplasmosis, which is a parasitic infection with flu-like symptoms.


Myth: Pregnant people shouldn’t fly.

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Bruce Bennett/Getty

Riley called this oft-given advice a “total myth.” But she added that pregnant people are at an increased risk of getting a blood clot in their legs and lungs, especially when they’re sitting for extended periods of time.

She told Insider that pregnant people should hydrate before flying and that when they’re on a plan, they should wear support hose or running leggings.

“Expectant mothers should stand up and walk around the plane every hour to keep blood flowing,” Riley said.


Myth: Exercise during pregnancy can strangle the baby.

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“Exercise is actually strongly recommended during pregnancy,” Goffman said. That recommendation changes if certain medical situations arise, however.


Myth: Sex during pregnancy hurts the baby.

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“There’s just no way that sex is going to get even near the baby,” Riley told Insider. According to the Mayo Clinic, a developing baby is protected during sex by amniotic fluid and the muscles in the uterus.


Myth: Dying your hair is harmful to the baby.

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Steven Saphore/Reuters

Goffman said that there’s no evidence that anything used for dying hair can reach an unborn baby or cause harm.

“I tell people it’s going to make you feel better,” Riley told Insider. “For a lot of us, how we look and how we present ourselves has a lot to do with our psychological state. And you want that to be as healthy as possible during pregnancy.”


Myth: There are simple tricks to overcome morning sickness.

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While Riley said that there are no easy solutions, there are ways to decrease the painfulness of morning sickness. She suggested starting the day by eating soda crackers, the blander the better, because smells can cause nausea.

And surprisingly, Riley said that pregnant people shouldn’t reach for water when feeling sick because it can make them feel worse.

“Put everything over crushed ice,” she said. “That way you’ll get the water, but you’re not actually drinking it and gulping air as you’re drinking out of a water bottle.”

Anything lemon-flavored helps curb nausea as well, she said. And when a pregnant person is feeling nauseated, Riley recommended ignoring the impulse to stay in bed. Instead, she recommends going for a walk outside.


Myth: C-sections are always necessary for breech births.

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If a baby in the womb is in breech position, that means the baby is lying so that the feet will come out first. While most doctors in the US deliver breech babies through Cesarean delivery (a C-section), Goffman said that’s not the only delivery option.

“Most of us think C-sections are the most common and the safest way to deliver a single baby in labor,” Goffman said but said delivery methods depend on individual circumstances. Vaginal deliveries of breech babies are more common for twins, she added.


Myth: If you sit all day, you’ll have a breech baby.

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Only about 3% of babies are going to be breeched, Riley told Insider, and whether or not a baby is breeched “has nothing to do with whether you’re running a marathon or you’re sitting on the bottom.”

She added that “Your baby will do whatever your baby is going to do.”


Myth: Pregnant women should sleep on their left side.

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Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

Although it may be tough to sleep flat on your back as pregnancy moves along, Goffman said, pregnant people should sleep however they’re comfortable.

If the baby’s weight does put too much pressure on blood vessels, pregnant people may become uncomfortable and naturally turn over while sleeping, Riley said.


Myth: Your hair and skin look better when you’re pregnant.

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Kristian Dowling/Getty Images

Unfortunately, that much-talked-about pregnancy glow is a myth, according to Riley. “The high progesterone levels that you get when you’re pregnant to support the pregnancy actually can bring out acne,” she said.


Myth: Pregnant women get flexible.

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Susana Vera/Reuters

There are lots of changes going on during pregnancy, Goffman said, but increased flexibility isn’t one of them.

“There are certain things that happen in terms of your posture,” she said, like how a pregnant person stands and the relaxation of different parts of the body to prepare the pelvis to give birth.


Myth: Eating spicy foods will induce labor.

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“Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to come up with any particular food or physical activity or drink or supplement that actually can induce labor,” Goffman said.

The only known effective way to induce labor is medication.


Myth: Yoga can induce labor.

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There are a lot of benefits to doing yoga, both Goffman and Riley said. But inducing labor isn’t one of them. Yoga may help with relaxation and stress relief, Goffman added.


Myth: Yoga makes labor smoother.

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Lucas Jackson/Reuters

Exercise can make labor a bit more efficient, Riley said, but yoga specifically won’t make a delivery smoother. She likens yoga to labor preparation techniques like Lamaze, in that it focuses on breathing and mindfulness.

“I think in that sense some of those things may help you to be more centered and be able to focus,” she said.


Myth: Natural births are better.

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For some people, natural birth, or giving birth without medication, can be a “wonderful experience,” Goffman said. “But we all know that we need to individualize the care for our patients.”

For other people, natural birth may not be better, she said.


Myth: There are ways to predict your exact due date.

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The due dates that doctors give their patients are plus or minus two weeks, Riley said. “Because your kid’s in charge of when you go into labor. We are not.”

Due date predictions have gotten more accurate because of improvements in ultrasound technology. For those who conceive through in-vitro fertilization, due date predictions are more precise.