Myth: Midwives of yesteryear claimed that what you ate before conception could influence the gender of your baby. Want a girl? Eat a diet rich in diary and magnesium-ladden foods (nuts, soy beans, leafy green veggies). For a little boy, stick with salty foods, plenty of red meat, and fizzy drinks.
Another popular myth is that if you want your baby to have lots of hair, you should eat spicy foods.
Reality: No research backs up any of these superstitions. Your best bet during pregnancy is to eat a healthy, balanced diet of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, protein, and low-fat dairy.
Myth: Thoughts of ice cream and cold pizza (with anchovies!) keeping you up late at night? According to popular myth, your unborn baby causes you to crave what s/he wants to eat. Some even believe that if you deny your cravings, Baby will be born with a birthmark in the shape of the food it was denied.
Reality: Pregnancy food cravings are very common and are partly due to the effect of rising hormone levels on your taste perceptions (making everyday foods taste different to you). Most are harmless, but if you find yourself wanting to eat chalk, dirt, or paint chips, be sure to speak with your doctor. (These types of out-of-control food cravings may be due to a disorder called pica.)
Myth: It's hard to resist buying adorable baby clothes during pregnancy, but if you're superstitious, chances are you're stashing your layette at a friend's house until Baby arrives. Some believe it's unlucky to bring home baby items before birth because it is tempting fate and assuming that the everything will go according to plan.
Reality: Nest at will! No scientific fact can back up this claim. Have fun and enjoy setting up the nursery, collecting baby toys, and building your baby's layette.
Myth: Stimulating the nipples or the breasts can bring on strong contractions and hasten your labor.
Reality: Fact! Dr. Gerard DiLeo explains that nipple stimulation causes the release of oxytocin, which is the same hormone used for medical inductions. (After delivery, oxytocin is released by breastfeeding.)
Myth: If you're experiencing heartburn during pregnancy, your baby will be born with a full head of hair.
Reality: Fact! In July 2007, researchers at Johns Hopkins released a study showing that a connection between heartburn and newborn hair does exists. The study followed 64 women throughout pregnancy. Each participant ranked their severity of heartburn and when their babies were born, two independent observers rated the thickness of the newborn hair. Seventy-eight percent of the pregnant women reported some level of heartburn, and of the 28 women who reported moderate to severe heartburn, 82 percent gave birth to babies with above average hair thickness. (Of the 12 women who reported no heartburn symptoms at all, 83 percent gave birth to babies with very little or no hair.)
Myth: There is an old superstition dictating that everything around a woman in labor must be "undone" so as not to block the passage of the baby through the birth canal. Those abiding by this belief make sure that necklaces, shoe strings, and doors and windows are all unclasped, untied, or opened.
Reality: Of course, this is merely a superstition. The best way to prepare for your birth is by maintaining a good diet and exercise program (with your doctor's permission) throughout your pregnancy. You can also research birthing techniques or pain medications, take a birthing class, and learn as much as you can about this very important next step in your life.