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Pregnancy Myths and Facts FAQs

Reviewed by Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

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Q:Nothing can relieve the symptoms of morning sickness. True or False?

A:False. Actually, morning sickness is a misnomer because it can occur at any time of the day and it is not a sickness. Nausea and vomiting are normal characteristics of early pregnancy. In some cases, nausea and vomiting can be controlled. Nausea and vomiting associated with pregnancy can be affected by the amount of food eaten and what time it is eaten. Avoiding greasy, fried, or spicy food might help pregnant women manage their nausea. Pregnant women may also try to eat smaller meals, frequent meals, and bland foods like toast and crackers.

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Q:Occasionally, small amounts of alcohol are fine for pregnant women. True or False?

A:False. There is no safe amount of alcohol a woman can drink during her pregnancy. Drinking anything that contains any amount of alcohol can cause problems for babies. When a fetus is exposed to alcohol, fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) can result, potentially causing problems in later life. The exact amount of alcohol that leads to problems in pregnancy is not known, so pregnant women are advised to abstain from alcohol completely.

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Q:Fetal alcohol syndrome describes birth defects caused by alcohol consumption during pregnancy. True or False?

A:True. The term fetal alcohol syndrome describes the sum total of the damage done to the child before birth as a result of the mother drinking alcohol during pregnancy. Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) always involves brain damage, impaired growth, and head and face abnormalities. The brain damage can lead to problems with mental capacity, learning, and other functions.

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Q:Preconception health should be addressed five years before a planned pregnancy. True or False?

A:False. Talking to a doctor at least three months before pregnancy can improve the chances or getting pregnant, having a healthy pregnancy, and having a healthy baby. Women who are trying to get pregnant may benefit from talking to a doctor about how her health conditions and risk factors could affect a baby's health. Doctors can also discuss what to do to improve the health of the mother before pregnancy. Bear in mind, some women need more than three months to get their bodies ready for pregnancy.

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Q:Exercise is dangerous for pregnant women and should be avoided during pregnancy. True or False?

A:False. It is not dangerous to exercise or to be physically active during pregnancy. In fact, doctors recommend it for most pregnant women. Women who exercised before pregnancy should continue to do so. Women who wish to become active during pregnancy may feel free to do so and should start slowly. If you are pregnant and would like to start exercising, check with your health care professional before beginning an exercise program.

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Q:Physical activity during pregnancy can lessen the discomforts associated with pregnancy. True or False?

A:True. Physical activity and regular exercise during pregnancy can improve common discomforts such as backache and fatigue, and can increase the likelihood of early recovery after delivery. In general, most kinds of aerobic, resistance, and flexibility exercises like yoga are safe during pregnancy.

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Q:High blood pressure caused by pregnancy is called preeclampsia. True or False?

A:True. Preeclampsia or gestational hypertension, refers to high blood pressure (hypertension) caused by pregnancy. Many pregnant women with high blood pressure have healthy babies without serious problems.

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Q:If you are pregnant and traveling by air, the seat over the wing of a plane will provide the smoothest ride. True or False?

A:True. Domestic travel is usually permitted for a woman who is pregnant until she is in week 36 of gestation, and international travel may be permitted until weeks 32-35, depending on the airline. Keep in mind: An aisle seat at the bulkhead will provide the most space and comfort, but a seat over the wing in the midplane region will give the smoothest ride. A pregnant woman should be advised to walk every half hour during a smooth flight and flex and extend her ankles frequently to prevent phlebitis. Dehydration can lead to decreased placental blood flow and hemoconcentration, increasing risk of thrombosis. Thus, pregnant women should drink plenty of fluids during flights.

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Q:Folic acid is a very important vitamin to take during pregnancy. True or False?

A:True. Pregnant women need 400 to 800 micrograms of folic acid every day. All women who are sexually active and able to become pregnant need this amount of folic acid every day. The best way to ensure that you are getting the necessary amount of folic acid is by taking prenatal vitamins.

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Q:Folic acid helps in the development and formation of a baby's brain and spine. True or False?

A:True. Folic acid, a member of the family of B vitamins, aids in the development and formation of a baby's brain and spine, and can prevent serious types of birth defects. Research studies indicate that insufficient intake of folic acid in the mother's diet is a key factor in causing spina bifida and other neural tube defects.

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Q:Since a pregnant woman is eating for two, she needs an additional 1,000 calories per day. True or False?

A:False. During pregnancy, the body needs more nutrients to provide for the baby to grow properly and be healthy. A pregnant woman is eating for two, but this does not mean that she must ingest excessive calories, or double her caloric intake. Most pregnant women only need to consume 300 extra calories per day!

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Q:All women should aim to gain 25-30 pounds during pregnancy. True or False?

A:False. The amount of weight a woman should gain during pregnancy depends on her body mass index (BMI) before she became pregnant. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) provides these guidelines: Women at a healthy weight before pregnancy should gain about 25 to 30 pounds. Women who were underweight before pregnancy should gain between 28 and 40 pounds. Women who were overweight before pregnancy should gain between 15 and 25 pounds. Women should gain weight throughout the pregnancy. Most of the weight should be gained in the last trimesters. Generally, doctors suggest that women gain weight at a rate of 2-4 pounds total during the first trimester, and 3-4 pounds per month during the second and third trimesters.

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Q:Not including the baby, pregnancy weight gained is all fat. True or False?

A:False. For an average pregnancy, only about 7 pounds accounts for added pregnancy weight. So, where does the added weight go? Pregnancy weight is added because of the baby, the placenta, amniotic fluid, uterus growth, breast growth, blood and body fluids and, protein and fat. The typical gain in weight can be broken down as follows: baby: 6 to 8 pounds; placenta: 1½ pounds; amniotic fluid: 2 pounds; uterus growth: 2 pounds; breast growth: 2 pounds; mom's blood and body fluids: 8 pounds; mom's protein and fat: 7 pounds.

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Q:Sex during pregnancy can harm a growing baby. True or False?

A:False. There is no reason to change or alter a sex life during pregnancy unless a doctor advises otherwise. Intercourse or orgasm during pregnancy will not harm the baby, unless there is a medical problem. An unborn baby is well protected in the uterus by the amniotic fluid that surrounds him or her.

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Q:It is impossible to prevent stretch marks from occurring during pregnancy. True or False?

A:False. According to George Kroumpouzos, MD, PhD, a dermatologist at South Shore Medical Center in Norwell, Massachusetts, more than 90% of pregnant women will develop stretch marks in response to the pulling and stretching of underlying skin during pregnancy. Dr. Kroumpouzos adds, "Exercise and use of lotions or creams with alpha-hydroxy acids can be used to prevent stretch marks from occurring."

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