Pregnancy Symptoms and Old Wife’s Tales – Debunking the myths!


From the moment you announce your pregnancy, friends, family and even complete strangers will start to offer you their opinions and advice. People love to share their thoughts on whether they think you’re having a boy or girl and what all your pregnancy symptoms mean – sometimes it’s in good fun, but other times it can get pretty tiring having to respond to endless comments about the size of your bump, what your heartburn means and whether they think you’re having a boy or a girl!

Here are some of the most common pregnancy symptoms, the old wife’s tales that accompany them and my tips for managing them.

Cravings  

Weird food cravings are ingrained in pregnancy folklore. Everyone has heard about women wanting to eat odd food combinations or only being able to stomach one type of food. Pickles and ice cream anyone?!

There are many old wife’s tales related to pregnancy food cravings, including gender predictions based on your cravings for salty or sweet foods. As the story goes, if you crave sweet food, you’re expecting a girl and if all can think about are salty snacks, you’re having a boy. Sounds cute right?! But there is no science to this one unfortunately.

Food cravings can be funny or just downright annoying, especially when you literally can’t think of anything that you want to eat aside from chips or dry bread! But what they can mean is that your body is giving you a not so subtle hint that it needs a very specific nutrient that it may be lacking. Your body is very in-tune with providing your unborn baby with everything it needs and if your body is deficient in something, it will sometimes crave it. Try as best as you can to eat a healthy, varied and balanced diet with loads of fresh veggies and fruit – and if you’re really concerned that you’re not giving your body everything that it needs, talk to your doctor or midwife about any prenatal vitamins or supplements that may be suitable for you.

Linea Nigra

Ever wondered about that dark purplish line that runs down the centre of the abdomen that some women get during pregnancy? It’s called the linea nigra, and around 75% of women will get it during while pregnant.

Interestingly, it’s always there it’s just that most of it can’t ever see it because it’s so faint. Before pregnancy it’s called the linea alba which is Latin for white line. During pregnancy the line becomes darker (it’s a bit of mystery why this happens but the most commonly accepted explanation is that it’s thanks to the additional estrogen in your body stimulating the production of melanocytes, in turn increasing pigment in the skin) and becomes the linea nigra which is Latin for black line.

There are a few old wife’s tales that do the rounds about the linea nigra, namely that if the line stops at the belly button, you’re having girl but if it goes all the way up to the rib cage, you’re having a boy. Considering there’s a 50/50 chance with these kinds of predictions, sometimes it is true!! But there is absolutely no science behind this myth.

It’s a harmless, completely normal part of pregnancy and once you’ve had your baby, the linea nigra generally fades away to virtually nothing again.

Heartburn

There is a classic old wife’s tale that if you suffer from heartburn or indigestion during pregnancy, your baby is going to be born with a full head of hair. Another myth that persists, despite no evidence that there is any link. Heartburn can happen to any Mumma during pregnancy whether the baby has no hair at all or luscious locks. Hair predictions aside, heartburn can be downright annoying and uncomfortable.

As unpleasant as it can be, heartburn is generally harmless and will usually subside once you’ve worked out specific food triggers.  It’s caused by rising stomach acid travelling up the esophagus. Those wonderful pregnancy hormones are partly to blame for this one, thanks to higher levels of progesterone which causes the sphincter that usually keeps your esophagus shut, to become looser then normal. Combine this with the fact that there is an ever-expanding bubba pushing up on your stomach and there is a good chance you might experience heartburn at some stage during your pregnancy.

A few tips to minimise heartburn in pregnancy include; try and avoid spicy and fried foods, eat smaller portions more regularly, ditch the carbonated drinks, minimise your coffee intake and try eating meals a few hours before bedtime (laying down right after a meal can make it worse). If you’re really struggling with your heartburn, there are several over-the-counter medications than can help alleviate your symptoms, but always check with your healthcare provider if you’re unsure.

Glowing Skin vs. breakout central

This is another pregnancy symptom that some people believe is linked to gender. And you guessed it, another old wife’s tale based in fiction rather than fact!

The story goes that if you’re having a boy, you’ll be glowing and radiant with an enviable clear complexion. While if you’re having a girl, she’ll ‘steal’ your beauty and leave you with less than glowing skin and possibly teenage-like breakouts too.

Well, based on personal experience this was the complete opposite! With Polly, I had that cliché pregnancy glow that everyone talks about and my skin was amazing. My pregnancy with Theo however was a completely different story and left my skin looking dull.

Pregnancy acne is linked to surging hormones and in most cases, it subsides once you’ve had baby. It’s important to keep in mind that many acne treatments and medications are contraindicated for pregnancy – meaning that you’re advised against using them. If you are really concerned about your skin, you can speak to a healthcare provider about your options but in most cases it’s just a case of looking after your skin with a good skincare routine and patiently waiting it out until bub arrives.

Bump position

The story goes that if you’re bump is sitting all out front, it’s a boy where as if you’re carrying around your middle, it’s a girl.

Everyone loves to try and guess the sex of your bub based on the shape, size and height of your bump. However, there is zero evidence to confirm these theories. The way you carry is all to do with your anatomy and physiology and potentially where your uterus and placenta sit. The number of pregnancies you’ve had, and the size of your baby also play a role in how your tummy will look, not whether you’re smuggling a tiny penis versus a tiny vagina!

Whichever way you’re carrying, embrace your beautiful bump, wear what makes you feel glorious and comfortable, while marvelling at your body’s incredible ability create another life. It’s pretty dam special and one day you might even look back and miss you bump – maybe!

Morning sickness

The most classic of all pregnancy symptoms, morning sickness is super common. It varies greatly in severity and duration, with some women experiencing mild nausea and exhaustion while others are physically sick right up until the day their baby is born.

The biggest myth of all is that morning sickness lasts only until midday! It can strike at any time of day and for many women lasts all day long. The other myth is that morning sickness passes by the 12-week mark – while it does pass after the first trimester for most women, it can last all the way up until the baby is born for some. Each woman is different and no, it has nothing to do with the sex of the baby either! Whether or not you have morning sickness will come down to how your body copes with the pregnancy hormones and will likely vary from pregnancy to pregnancy.

This was completely true for me – I felt well while I was pregnancy Polly and bounced through pregnancy feeling fantastic. Where as with Theo, I felt so sick and tired – it was a completely different experience.

It’s also worth noting here that there is a difference between morning sickness and Hyperemesis Gravidarum. The latter is a serious medical condition that needs treatment from your caregiver to be managed effectively. If you have trouble keeping any food down and all and are constantly throwing up, you should seek advice from your GP, Obstetrician or Midwife.

Head Aches

Headaches can be a relatively common pregnancy symptom. There are a number of causes of increased headaches during pregnancy including:

  • Surges of pregnancy hormones
  • Increased blood volume
  • General fatigue
  • Low blood sugar levels and/or hunger
  • Dehydration
  • Caffeine withdrawals
  • Stress
  • Tensions in the body; particularly towards the end of the pregnancy with changes to posture and the weight of your ever-expanding tummy

Generally, these headaches aren’t too severe and interestingly, many women who ordinarily experience migraine headaches can have fewer or less severe migraines while pregnant thanks to the pregnancy hormones.

Most women will try and avoid taking pain killers where possible while pregnant, but if you’re really struggling to manage your headaches, speak to your healthcare provider about pain relief options. The best thing you can try and do is be extra mindful of staying hydrated, resting more frequently and ensuring that you have plenty of healthy snacks on hand to keep your blood sugar levels steady. A pregnancy massage or two wouldn’t hurt either!

Sorting fact from fiction and opinion can be a minefield in pregnancy and in childbirth. I’m passionate about sharing easy to understand information with parents-to-be so that they can be armed with current and evidenced-based knowledge. Because knowledge is power, especially when it comes to childbirth. If you want to feel the calm confidence that comes with being informed and prepared, explore our Birth Beat Ultimate Prenatal Program, so that you can start your journey to parenthood without the overwhelm of opinions and old wife’s tales!

Ed xx

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