Oct 8, 2013


Dear Mom to be, did you get that dirty look when you ordered that triple latte? Eat this. Don't eat that. The lists of do's and don'ts during the pregnancy seems to grow every day. Pregnancy taboos, forbidden stuff varies from culture to culture, Chinese and Navajo cultures forbid pregnant women from going to funerals. Some cultures forbid red meat during pregnancy. All of these taboos recognize that pregnancy is a vulnerable state and emotional distress food poisoning and dietary indiscretion can be bad for moms and babies. Most cultures and taboos focus on the risk of miscarriage, birth defects and difficult births. Some American myths:

Misconception: At least two years between pregnancies

Spacing the births of children at least two years apart is good for the mom and the baby; lower rates of prematurity, low birth weight—so two years has become the American norm. International data suggests for the child, baby should be spaced three years apart. They have better language development and school readiness and how much they love the new baby. Babies born two years apart hate the new baby. Babies born three years apart sort of like the new baby. So may be little longer between the babies is better for the kids; not two may be three.

Misconception: Eating for two

Actually you are only eating for one and little bit. Before World War II women were not encouraged to gain weight because having a big baby before Ceasarian sections were safe was a really risky thing. After World War II weight gains of 30 pounds used to be recommended normally. Now we recognize it as excess weight gain in pregnancy contributes to obesity later in life.

So if you are one of those lucky women with normal healthy weight, 30 pounds is okay. But if you are over weight or obese, 20 pounds or less is now recommended. The recommended extra 300 calories a day can be achieved in three glasses of milk or one piece of whole grain toast with one and half tablespoons of peanut butter, not very much, to get the extra nutrition and all that you need to grow that baby.

The Navajo taboo is don't eat too much fat stuff when you are pregnant or your baby will have trouble coming out. So don't eat too much fat stuff.

Misconception: Vitamins are needed during pregnancy

Prenatal vitamins, of course there is very good evidence that adequate folic acid prior to pregnancy and in very early pregnancy helps decrease the risk of malformations of the baby's spine and brain. But do you really need those enormous horse pills throughout your whole pregnancy? There is very little evidence that women with balanced diets of fruits, vegetables, dairy, protein and whole grains, need vitamins in pregnancy and some women get constipated from the iron or nauseated.

If you are under nourished or iron or vitamin deficient pre natal vitamins are a good idea. But for the vast majority of American women, don't worry if you can't take your vitamins. Eat right and get in a habit of that for your children.

Misconception: Any caffeine can increase the risk of miscarriage

The worry is that high intake of caffeine can increase the risk of miscarriage. But the increased risk for women is tiny then there isn't increased risk with 200 milligrams of caffeine a day. That's about two cups of coffee, not two huge cups, ladies. Or two cups of tea could be safely introduced into your diet.

True: Speak kind words

Lastly what the Chinese and Navajo traditions prohibit women who are pregnant from saying mean things or swearing; remember the baby is listening.

updated: February 7, 2020
originally published: October 8, 2013

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