From the earliest of days to modern times, pregnancy and childbirth have been surrounded by old wives’ tales, myths, and superstition. From crazy cravings, to nesting beliefs, to calendars that determine the gender of your baby, prepare for the waves of advice and information that will come pouring in once you announce you’re expecting!
“As soon as I told people I was pregnant they would get this look on their faces, and I just knew what was coming—everyone had an opinion on the gender of my baby depending on what color clothes I was wearing, how my bump was situated, and what foods I was eating during my pregnancy,” says Marcelle Falconer, mother to Maxine Laura.
One worldwide superstition claims that what a woman eats before conception influences baby’s sex. If you want a girl, have a dairy-rich diet and lots of magnesium-rich foods such as nuts, soy beans, and leafy green vegetables. If you want a boy, eat a high-salt diet with plenty of red meat and drink fizzy beverages.
Leah Elliott, a qualified doula, says she has also heard that women who eat hot peppers during pregnancy “will cause the baby to have a large head of hair.” This ties in with the thinking that if a mother experiences a lot of heartburn, her child will be born with a lot of hair—but then again, the heartburn could have something to do with all those hot peppers!
While no research corroborates these superstitions, a pregnant woman is still the sole source of food for her baby and it’s important she maintain a varied and balanced diet. Eating fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, protein, and low-fat dairy will help create a healthy environment for a developing baby.
Do you get the urge for pickles and ice cream during pregnancy? Your unborn child may have unusual taste, according to the notion that a mother craves a particular food because the baby itself wants the food. And, look out if you’re yearning for a strangely shaped snack! Some believe that if the baby doesn’t get the food you crave, it will be born with a birthmark resembling the food it was denied.
While cravings are common during pregnancy, they are partly due to rising hormone levels that affect saliva (which often reflects the chemical content of the blood) and make certain foods taste different from normal. In her book Conception, Pregnancy & Birth, Dr. Miriam Stoppard, MD, says that cravings are also thought to be a response to a deficiency in certain minerals and trace elements in your body.
Boy or Girl?
Guessing your baby’s sex is another great source of speculation, although some swear their methods of deduction are infallible. Some of the more common methods of reasoning are based on how a woman carries her baby: If you are carrying high it’s a boy, and low, a girl. If you are carrying out front it’s a boy, and if wide, a girl. But depending on who you talk to, you’re likely to hear completely opposite theories, too!
Women through the ages have sworn by the ring-and-tummy theory: Hang your wedding ring (assuming you can get it off!) from a strand of the father’s hair over your belly. If the ring swings in a circle you will have girl and if it swings back and forth you will have a boy.
Pay close attention during baby’s heartbeat checks at the doctor’s office if you believe this wives’ tale: If your baby’s heart rate is faster than 140 beats per minute (bpm) it is a girl, and if the heart rate is less than 130 bpm, it’s a boy. Midwife Lynn Walcott has encountered this belief, commenting that “even our technology is imbibed with superstition.”
Even nausea is considered a valuable tool in predicting your baby’s gender. If morning sickness has turned into all-day sickness for you, you’re probably having a daughter according to an old superstition.
The ancient Chinese Lunar Calendar claims to be 99-percent accurate in predicting the sex of your baby—those are good odds! All you need is the mom’s age at the time of conception and the month the child was conceived, and the chart will reveal the unborn baby’s gender. An alternative to the chart that works on the same premise is to just add the month you conceived to your age at the time of conception, and if the sum is even Baby will be a girl and odd, a boy.
The most accurate way to tell the sex of your baby is through ultrasound or amniocentesis.
Choosing the Gender
There are also numerous superstitions relating to the gender of your baby and conception. Common beliefs are that if you want a boy you should let your partner seduce you into sex and then only have intercourse at night on the odd days of the month during a quarter moon. If you want a girl you should seduce your partner and have intercourse during the afternoon on the even days of the month during a full moon. Talk about family planning!
There is no sure way to guarantee your child’s gender, short of going to a gender selection clinic which is hugely expensive and largely controversial.
No Nesting Allowed!
It’s hard to resist buying adorable baby clothes during pregnancy, but if you’re superstitious, you may want to wait. Some believe it is unlucky to bring new items of clothing or nursery furniture, including the stroller, into the house before the arrival of the baby because it is tempting fate and assuming that the birth will go according to plan.
“I am not overly superstitious but was told not to buy anything for the baby before its birth so many times I almost began to believe it,” says Jacki Shaw, mother to Daniel and Èva. “With my first pregnancy I compromised and ordered everything for the nursery but did not have them delivered until Daniel had arrived safely; and I accepted the presents from the baby shower and from friends and family before his birth. But with Eva I had no choice—I already had most of what was needed in the house and never once felt any hint of superstition.”
Lynn Walcott says that she has heard a few superstitions relating to birth itself. “For labor, one lovely old superstition is that everything around the woman in labor must be ‘undone’ so as not to block the passage of the baby through the birth canal, e.g. undo necklaces, untie knots, open doors and windows—there must be no ‘closures.'”
And if you’re looking for a pain-free birth, you can always try placing a knife under the bed to ease your labor pains.
Once You’ve Heard Them All …
Ask your doctor or midwife for the real story! The old wives’ tales you’re sure to hear from loving friends and family can be entertaining, but your healthcare provider is the best source for accurate advice pertaining to your pregnancy and birth.