From the moment you announce your pregnancy, you are inundated with unsolicited advice and “helpful tips.” It can be a lot to digest, especially when so much of it is outdated, misunderstood, or just plain false. How do you know how to separate the good advice from the bad?

First and foremost, find a healthcare provider you trust. Being informed is important, but when Google, your mother-in-law, your local Facebook parents’ group, and your baby books are all giving conflicting advice, it’s time to talk to your doctor or midwife. They know what’s up and they have heard it all!

Still, there are some persistent pregnancy myths that just won’t go away. Let’s settle the record right now.

Myth #1 – First Babies are Usually Late

While first pregnancies have a slightly higher tendency than subsequent pregnancies to go past their due dates, you still shouldn’t expect to be “overdue” if this is your first baby. In fact, first babies are also slightly more likely than subsequent pregnancies to be early. There are also many other reasons for a parent to go past their assigned due date. A due date is a vague estimate anyway, with a period of four to five weeks being considered within the normal full-term range.

Myth #2 – Putting Your Hands Over Your Head Will Strangle Your Baby

This is false. Parents often fear their baby’s cord will get wrapped around their baby’s neck and hurt them – but in reality, it’s common for a baby to have their cord around their neck. It’s called a nuchal cord and it’s rarely dangerous – and putting your arms up won’t cause it anyway.

Myth #3 – How You are Carrying Can Predict the Sex of the Baby

Nope. In fact, none of the sex-predicting tricks work. The only ways to predict what gender the baby will be assigned at birth is through genetic testing (such as amniocentesis) and ultrasound. Even then, it’s not always one hundred per cent accurate. Let’s just say that despite being told the sex via ultrasound, we were glad we had a unisex name chosen for our second child. 😉

It’s easy for these myths to keep going because with a roughly 50/50 chance that any of these “predictions” will be correct, simple probability will make it seem accurate at least half of the time. Statistically and scientifically, it isn’t supported – but you will still hear a lot of, “It’s totally true, it worked for me.”

Myth #4 – Pregnant People Should Eat for Two

If you aren’t giving birth to a grown adult, there is no reason to double your food intake. Some extra caloric intake may be necessary, but the amount varies based on a number of factors such as BMI and activity level, and is typically only about 350 to 450 extra calories a day. 

Unless advised by your healthcare provider, a restricted diet isn’t advised, but don’t worry about bulking up your food intake. Stick to well-balanced and nutritious choices.

Myth #5 – Everyone Gets Morning Sickness

When I saw those two lines, I braced myself for the nausea – it never came. Minus a bit of motion sickness with my second pregnancy, I managed to avoid morning sickness with both of my children. It’s more common than you’d think. About thirty per cent of pregnant people do not experience morning sickness. While lack of morning sickness may cause worry, rest assured that it is not a reliable indicator of an impending miscarriage. If you don’t experience it, well – bonus!

Myth #6 – Pregnant People Shouldn’t Exercise

Not only is exercise not taboo during pregnancy, it’s encouraged! Some modifications and considerations may be needed, but generally speaking, if you were active before pregnancy you can continue to be active during pregnancy. If you didn’t exercise regularly before pregnancy, you can ease into it while pregnant as well. Always check with your healthcare provider about the exercises you plan to do beforehand.

Myth #7 – Spicy Foods Induce Labour

Eat it if you like, but you are unlikely to smoke Junior out with spicy foods. You might give yourself some wicked indigestion, though. In fact, a lot of the tips for inducing labour are false and some are actually dangerous. The one trick that might help get things going is, well, getting it on. There is some evidence that sex can help trigger labour, but it’s not conclusive and it might be uncomfortable. This does not mean that sex puts you at risk for preterm labour – in a healthy pregnancy, unless your healthcare provider recommends otherwise, sex during pregnancy is safe. Sex only “works” if you are full-term and ready to be in labour anyway.

Myth #8 – You Can’t Dye Your Hair While Pregnant

While limited, most research supports the safety of dyeing your hair while pregnant. There are some precautions you can take, and your “pregnancy hair” may behave differently than your pre-pregnancy hair, but there’s no need go grey if you don’t want to.

Myth #9 – If You Have One C-Section, You Will Need One for Subsequent Pregnancies

Vaginal birth after delivery, or VBAC, is common and safe for most people who have had a C-section in the past. For every one hundred planned VBACs, about seventy-five will deliver vaginally, and about twenty-five will have another C-section. If you have had a C-section with a previous pregnancy, talk to your healthcare provider about your options.

Myth #10 – You Can’t Get the Flu Shot While Pregnant

Not true! In fact, you should get your flu shot if you are pregnant during flu season. The shot not only helps protect you from complications from the flu, it can help protect your baby from complications before birth and after birth! 

In addition to the flu shot, pregnant people should get the Dtap vaccine to help protect their newborns from whooping cough. Ideally it is given between weeks twenty-seven and thirty-six. This is important regardless of whether or not you are up to date on your boosters, and should be repeated with each pregnancy. 

One Pregnancy “Myth” That May Actually Be True…

It definitely sounds like an old wives’ tale, but heartburn during pregnancy really might mean a hairy baby. No one expected this to be true, including the scientists who studied it – but according to research, there does appear to be an association between the severity of heartburn during pregnancy and the amount of hair with which the baby is born. Maybe that’s why my second child was born looking like Jason Momoa. 😉

No matter how well-meaning, not all the suggestions people give you during pregnancy are good. Remember to use critical thinking, do some fact-checking, and consult with your healthcare provider before heeding any advice. And if your great-aunt Bertha just won’t let up, feel free to use my husband’s standard response for unsolicited advice – “Something to think about.”

Heather M. Jones is a writer in Toronto and mom to two young boys. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, or her website.