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Pregnancy Nutrition Myths Debunked


When you’re pregnant, you can hear some pretty outrageous myths:

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Don’t raise your hands above your head. Your baby’s umbilical cord can become wrapped around their neck.
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No swimming. Your baby will drown.
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Don’t look at an exotic or ugly animal. Your baby will take on the animal’s physical traits.

We understand there’s a lot of pregnancy information out there—and all myths aren’t quite as obviously false as the ones we just mentioned! Since March is Nutrition Month, we thought we would take a closer look at 6 common nutrition-related myths. 

 


 

MYTH #1:

Eat whatever and however much you want—you’re eating for two!


FACT CHECK:

Eat twice as healthy, not twice as much!

couple making meal together

Weight gain is normal and healthy during pregnancy, but there are risks to gaining too much (or too little) weight. Gaining too much weight means your baby is more likely to be big at birth or overweight as a child, and you are at higher risk for gestational diabetes, complications at birth and not losing all your pregnancy weight later. 

A pregnancy weight gain calculator can help you figure out how much weight gain is recommended for you in each trimester based on your pre-pregnancy body mass index (BMI). If you gain more weight than recommended at any point in your pregnancy, don’t try to lose the extra weight while you’re still pregnant. Just focus on the weekly weight gain targets from your health care provider for the rest of your pregnancy.

To learn more about healthy eating, check out these resources: Still have questions? Speak with a registered dietitian by calling Telehealth Ontario at 1-866-797-0000.

 



MYTH #2:

Caffeine can cause a miscarriage. 


FACT CHECK:

Limit your caffeine intake to less than 300mg/day while pregnant or breastfeeding.

woman holding a coffee

According to the Organization of Teratology Information Specialists, a group of specialists in the United States who study whether exposures in pregnancy and breastfeeding may harm a baby, most studies do not suggest an increased risk of miscarriage or harm to the unborn baby when caffeine is consumed in moderation (200-300 mg/day). However, very high levels (over 800 mg/day) or high levels taken with cigarettes or alcohol may increase the risk for miscarriage. For these reasons, Health Canada recommends keeping your caffeine intake to less than 300 mg per day during pregnancy. 

For many people, coffee is the main source of their caffeine intake each day but other food and drinks also contain caffeine. Learn how much caffeine is in your food and drinks to help you decide whether to cut back. You can limit your caffeine intake to less than 300 mg/day by choosing decaffeinated or caffeine-free options and making water your drink of choice.

 



MYTH #3:

Food allergies can be prevented by not eating allergenic foods in pregnancy and during breastfeeding.


FACT CHECK:

There’s no proven way to prevent your baby from developing a food allergy during pregnancy.

pregnant woman eating peanut butter

Sorry to disappoint, but you won’t prevent your baby from having a food allergy by not eating allergenic foods during your pregnancy or breastfeeding. The only foods you need to avoid eating from an allergy standpoint are those that YOU are allergic to.

Learn more about food allergies and babies from UnlockFood.ca.

 



MYTH #4:

Traditional Chinese medicine says pregnant women should avoid eating foods with hot or cold energy to prevent miscarriage, stillbirth and other birth defects. 
 

FACT CHECK:

There is no evidence that foods with hot or cold energy will put an unborn baby at risk.

According to traditional Chinese medicine, eating warm, easy-to-digest foods keeps the spleen, stomach and uterus warm. Certain foods with hot or cold energy are thought to make these organs too hot or too cold—which could harm the unborn baby. However, there is no evidence to support that an unborn baby is at risk when foods with hot or cold energy are eaten during pregnancy. 

We know that traditions are important. You may still choose to follow traditional Chinese medicine food recommendations. As you make your food choices, keep in mind that Health Canada recommends avoiding the following foods and drinks during pregnancy for the health and safety of your baby:
  • Any type or amount of alcohol
  • The following foods that are more likely to cause food poisoning:
    • Raw or undercooked meat, poultry, eggs or fish
    • Unpasteurized cheese
    • Unpasteurized fruit juice
    • Hot dogs
    • Deli meat
    • Raw sprouts
  • Fish with higher levels of mercury, including fresh/frozen tuna, shark, swordfish, marlin, orange roughy and escolar (choose fish with lower levels of mercury instead)
  • Some herbs and herbal teas (e.g., chamomile, aloe, coltsfoot, juniper berry, pennyroyal, buckthorn bark, comfrey, Labrador tea, sassafras, duck root, lobelia, senna leaves). Talk to your health care provider or call Motherisk about what herbs are safe.
On a final note, if you avoid eating foods or food groups for health or personal reasons, talk to a registered dietitian. They can help you figure out if you are missing any nutrients that are important for pregnancy.

 


 

MYTH #5:

Eating pineapple can make you go into labour. 


FACT CHECK:

There isn’t any evidence that eating pineapple will induce labour.

pregnant woman eating pineapple

Go ahead and enjoy pineapple throughout your pregnancy if you choose—but DON’T count on it to get that baby to move on out at the end! 

Wondering if there are any proven natural labour induction methods? Check out the Natural Labor Induction Series from Evidence Based Birth.  

 


 

MYTH #6:

Colostrum shouldn’t be fed to babies. 

 

FACT CHECK:

Colostrum is important to babies’ short- and long-term health.

newborn breastfeeding

The Canadian Paediatric Society recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life, and continued breastfeeding to two years and beyond with the introduction of complementary foods at six months. Colostrum is the first milk your body makes for your baby. It’s full of living cells that help protect your baby from germs around them, and it influences the development of your baby’s microbiome. This is important for your baby’s immune system and affects both their short- and long-term health. 
 
If breastfeeding is delayed for a few days until mature milk is available, your baby will miss out on the benefits of colostrum. You may also have trouble getting your baby to latch deeply or making enough milk for your baby. For more information or help with feeding your baby, visit our website or speak with one of our public health nurses at Let’s Talk Parenting (1-800-265-7293 ext. 3616).

 


 

What other myths have you heard about nutrition during pregnancy?


We know we didn’t cover all the nutrition and pregnancy myths out there, but we had to stop somewhere! If you read or hear something you just aren’t sure about, please send us a message on Facebook (@LetsTalkParenting) or Twitter (@LetsTalkParents), or call Let’s Talk Parenting Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. We are happy to answer your questions!
 

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Want more stage and age-specific information? Visit our website to read about your child’s development and get more activities and healthy living tips:

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