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5 Old Wives' Tales About Pregnancy

Birth is one of the oldest and most fundamental tenets of our society. And like many parts of ancient history, it is accompanied by plenty of myth, folklore, and legend.

The folklore and superstitions surrounding childbirth also stems from the fact that we don’t scientifically understand it. Though there are countless old wives’ tales about pregnancy (and some even hold some truth), here are a few common myths about pregnancy and childbirth.

Walking induces labor: Myth.

There has been no literature or studies to show that walking or running will bring on labor. Many dedicated women, walk or hike for miles to initiate contractions, but unfortunately end up ready for bed instead of ready to give birth.  On the other hand, walking can be useful during labor, or once contractions have already begun. It can help babies rotate and descend into the pelvis.

Excessive activity or stress causes a miscarriage. Myth.

I've heard women say this often and sadly condemn themselves for the misfortune of a miscarriage.  But it is simply not true. A miscarriage is already such a melancholy event, women don't also need to blame themselves for what happened.

Bed rest will prevent preterm labor: Myth.

This one probably comes as a surprise to most, as many obstetrical providers are still using this method today in an attempt to prevent preterm labor. A Cochrane database system review from 2004 found there was no evidence that bed rest prevented preterm birth, though the data collected from over 1,200 women also found that bed rest did not have any harmful effects. Some providers may feel that it gives women a sense of control and that it has some positive psychosocial effects for pregnant women.

Epidurals slow down dilatation: Myth.

In 2011, another meta-analysis was conducted on epidural anesthesia and the length of labor. Based on the findings, an epidural can increase the time of the second stage or "pushing phase" of labor (time from 10cm dilated to delivery of the baby), but it will not increase the first stage or dilation stage (getting from 1cm to 10cm). Some obstetrical providers even boast than an epidural can increase dilatation because it causes a relaxation in the pelvic floor that encourages fetal descent.

The umbilical cord around the neck is an emergency: Myth.

About 30% of babies are born with the cord around the neck.  The midwife or doctor can easily remove the cord or clamp it and cut it to prevent any complications. Because it's such a common occurrence, many providers don't even mention it to women when they give birth.

In age of big data and advancing technologies there will be more myths made and more myths debunked. As we go forward, it's helpful to know how.

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