You’re six months pregnant and that heartburn is getting worse and worse. You think to yourself, “gosh, my little one must have a head full of hair!” Believe it or not, heartburn and the thickness of an infant’s hair are among many common pregnancy myths that have been passed on over many generations. Many of these myths are often debated by healthcare professionals and passed off as old wives’ tales, but a few have been researched. Let’s explore some of the common pregnancy myths and determine if they’re fact or fiction!

Heartburn & Thick Hair

Heartburn occurs when acids from the stomach backflow into the esophagus or “food pipe.” These acids irritate the lining of the esophagus causing that burning feeling in your chest. During pregnancy, the hormone progesterone causes the valve between the stomach and esophagus to relax, further increasing the chances of the backflow of acids and the development of heartburn. So where does the full head of hair come in? Well, research shows that those same hormones can also cause an increase in the number of hair follicles on your infant’s head during the last 5-6 weeks of pregnancy. Therefore, it is plausible that there is a relationship between heartburn and the amount of fetal hair, but more research is needed. The more likely explanation of the amount of hair on your baby’s head is family genetics. Either way, heartburn is unpleasant, so be sure to eat smaller meals throughout the day, increase your water intake, and try to wait an hour after eating before lying down. These tips will help minimize your chances of developing heartburn. Consult your provider before reaching for an over-the-counter medication, as some aren’t recommended during pregnancy.

Belly Shape & Baby’s Gender

“If you’re carrying low, then you’re having a boy!” The shape of your belly and your baby’s gender is also a very common pregnancy myth. The origin of this myth is unknown, but it has been determined that there is no factual evidence to confirm it. During pregnancy, your abdominal muscles stretch to allow for your growing baby and uterus. The abdominal muscles continue to stretch with each following pregnancy. So, one woman’s belly may hang lower because it’s her third pregnancy or because she previously carried twins, and another woman’s belly may be higher because it’s her first pregnancy or because she simply has stronger abdominal muscles. No matter how your belly looks, the most important thing is to ensure proper back support. Use an abdominal support garment while walking and a body pillow for sleep to help with lower back pain, and leave the gender determinations to your ultrasound technologist.

Acne and Baby’s Gender

Ah, the pregnancy glow. Many pregnant moms look forward to this physiological change as it results in brighter, more moisturized skin and an overall “radiant” appearance. However, for some moms, this glow can lead to something else entirely unwanted: acne! Some say that if a woman has a lot of acne during pregnancy, then she’s having a girl, as “girls will steal all of your looks.” As much as you may want this to be fact, it’s fiction. Those same lovely hormones, specifically progesterone, increase in your first trimester of pregnancy. Starting at around six weeks gestation, you may experience an increase of oil production on your face. While this oil helps give you your glow, it can also cause your pores to clog, leading to acne. You have a higher chance of developing acne if you experience outbreaks during your menstrual cycle, if you’re just normally prone to outbreaks, or because of your genetics. So no, your sweet little girl (or boy) isn’t stealing your looks, you’re just experiencing one of the many normal symptoms of pregnancy. Keep your acne at bay by practicing good skin care. Techniques such as changing your pillowcases frequently, keeping your hands off your face, using a gentle, oil-free and alcohol-free cleanser, and utilizing a handsfree device for your cellphone can decrease the buildup of bacteria on your face.

Baby’s Heart Rate and Gender

Another area of pregnancy myths about baby’s gender is related to their heart rate. As the myth goes, “If the heart rate is fast, you’re having a girl; if it’s slow, you’re having a boy.” Not quite, but let’s talk about babies’ heart rates. While in the womb, your baby’s heart rate is regulated by two different systems and fluctuates during pregnancy. This fluctuation results in a higher heart rate early in pregnancy – between 28 and 32 weeks, and a lower heart rate from 32 weeks onward, no matter the gender. However, multiple studies have researched this popular myth, which may have led to its origin. One particular study found that female fetal heart rates were higher by an average of one to two beats, but also noted this difference was an insignificant finding to the study. Another study lamented that infant males’ cardiac and nervous systems mature more slowly than females, which may explain the difference in heart rates. In the end, there isn’t enough research to solidify this myth as factual. As new parents-to-be, you’re excited about pregnancy and attribute many of these passed-down myths to how your body is reacting and developing. While these guessing games are fun to play, just remember that the one thing that matters most is a healthy mom and baby!

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Aliah Thomas, RNC-OB, is a perinatal nurse who has worked in women's health for her entire career. She also serves as a Facilitator in the Nurse Residency Program for new graduates at her hospital and is passionate about patient education and advocacy.

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