Pregnancy is the period from conception to labour and to the period in which offspring is able to live outside of the mother's uterus. The term pregnancy does not apply to humans only but also to other animals. Actual pregnancy takes 40 weeks in humans and it is divided into three periods called trimesters.
The first step towards pregnancy usually begins with a sexual intercourse; male reproductive cells (sperm) are delivered into the uterus. Sperm can survive in the body of the female usually for 48 hours. Sperm have a long tail that keeps them moving. They are the only human cells with these characteristics. There are usually 100 to 300 million sperm in a single ejaculation of a healthy man. The goal of sperm is to get to the egg, fertilize it and therefore bring a new life into existence.
The umbrella term assisted reproduction is used for alternative methods of fertilization. They are applied in case of infertility or to fertilize females without male partner.
Pregnancy is a specific and entirely special period for every woman. There are many pieces of useful advice getting mixed with superstition, old wives' tales and myths about this period.
MYTHS ABOUT CONCEPTION
Myth: You can influence your child's sex by your position during the conception intercourse.
Reality: The X or Y chromosomes from the father determine the sex of the baby. If the sperm that fertilizes the egg carries chromosome X, it will be a baby girl. If chromosome Y, the baby will be a boy. It has never been proven that sex positions have any influence on the sex of the baby.
Myth: If you have trouble conceiving, hug a pregnant woman, may you'll "get infected".
Reality: In this case, we can only say Believe and your faith will help you. Your mental well-being and calmness can contribute to easier conception.
Myth: As soon as you get off the pill, you will get pregnant immediately.
Reality: The truth is that this course of events occurs only in minimum number of couples. An average couple needs to have sex more than a hundred times in order to successfully conceive a baby. It usually takes at least half a year.
MYTHS ABOUT PREGNANCY
Myth: The more intense morning sickness you have, the bigger the chance that you will have a girl.
Reality: Even though most experts postulate that it is superstition, some studies prove that women with intense morning sickness give birth to girls more often. However, it is not clear what increases the intensity; it may be hormones.
Myth: If the expectant mother gets heart-burn frequently during her pregnancy, her baby will have a lot of hair.
Reality: Heart-burn is fairly common during pregnancy. Due to the growing fetus, stomach is pushed upward in the belly. Therefore, stomach acid gets back into oesophagus more easily and cause the "burning". However, this has nothing to do with growth of baby hair.
Myth: Pregnant women must not touch cats.
Reality: This myth and recommendation not to touch cats during pregnancy is related to the possibility of toxoplasmosis infection. This parasite induces severe infection in humans and it is particularly dangerous in pregnant women. A pregnant woman should definitely refrain from handling cat's litter box because the parasite travels in cat faeces.
Myth: In order to protect the health of her baby, the mother should avoid sex and exercise during pregnancy.
Reality: Sex or exercise does no harm to the baby. On the contrary, special exercise help keep the mother fit. Avoid doing exercise in hot weather. It is also possible that your doctor will advise you against having sexual intercourse in case of high-risk pregnancy. However, these cases are rare.
Myth: The weight you gained during pregnancy will go away during childbirth.
Reality: Some women gain only a few kilos during their pregnancy and the look as if they were never pregnant immediately after giving birth. However, most women do not lose this weight during labour. In average, women gain 11-16 kg during pregnancy and "lose" maximum 4-7 kg during labour. They have to lose the weight in the months following the birth of their child.
Myth: You must not raise your arms above your head (put up the curtains or hang laundry up to dry) because the umbilical cord could wrap around the baby's neck.
Reality: This is an old wives' tale. Complications associated with umbilical cord depend mainly on the length of the cord and mobility of the fetus. The umbilical cord wraps around the fetus' body parts at random.
Myth: When you're pregnant, you should eat for two.
Reality: This is a very popular statement, but the fact that you are pregnant does not mean you should eat for two. In order to keep the expectant mother's diet balanced, experts recommend adding a liitle extra snack of ca 300 kcal.
Myth: The shape of a pregnant belly "gives away" the sex of the baby to be born. If the belly is pointed, it will be a boy and if it's round, it will be a girl.
Reality: This method is very unreliable. The shape of the belly depends mainly on the position of the fetus in the uterus. In women who have had more than one pregnancy, the uterus is arched more to the front which also influences the shape of the belly.
MYTHS ABOUT CHILDBIRTH
Myth: You will know when you are going into labour 100%.
Reality: You can encounter this statement even at antenatal check-ups, but it is not always the case. Braxton Hicks contractions, also called practice contractions, may keep occurring throughout the third trimester and some women can even experience them already in the second trimester. Their intensity can come close to labour contractions. If you experience them, you may head for the hospital prematurely with the feeling that you are going into labour or spend the first stage of labour at home in peace because you cannot tell the difference between practice contractions and real contractions.
Myth: You will know you are in labour because your waters will break.
Reality: The fetus is surrounded by amniotic fluid throughout the pregnancy and people often say that women go into labour at the moment when the amniotic sack breaks and the fluid pours out. However, in many women the amniotic fluid does not have to pour out at all, only leak in small amount and there may not be any massive discharge at all. You can also mistake it for urine. Some women do not even experience their waters breaking and the amniotic sac has to be ruptured by a doctor.
Myth: Contractions are similar to menstrual cramps.
Reality: This simile may be true in some women, but it is far from being common. The intensity of uterine contraction varies greatly from woman to woman. Some women experience contractions and pains only in their lower abdomen, some experience hardening of the entire belly or even strong pains in their lumbar area.
Myth: The second childbirth is always easier than the first one.
Reality: This may be true, but it is far from being a rule. People say that the second childbirth is usually shorter and easier. However, intensity and demandingness of childbirth are largely influenced by the size and position of the fetus. The speed of cervical dilation also influences the course of labour more than the order of childbirths experienced.
Myth: If you get Caesarean section once, you will never be able to deliver your child naturally after that.
Reality: At present, approx. 15% of all childbirths in the Czech Republic are Caesarean sections. Although it is the most frequent surgical delivery, doctors prefer vaginal deliveries due to its high degree of risk. If a woman has undergone two or more Caesarean sections or if the baby is heavier than four kilograms, subsequent vaginal delivery becomes impossible. In such a case, there is a risk of uterine rupture.
MYTHS ABOUT BREASTFEEDING
Myth: Every woman is able to breastfeed.
Reality: Unfortunately, this is not true. Many obstacles can arise in breastfeeding, such as earlier operations and procedures in the breast area. Or taking certain medicine may make breastfeeding difficult. However, it is true that every woman should breastfeed her baby, if possible, at least for some time.
Myth: If woman's breasts shrink after childbirth, it means the she doesn't have enough milk.
Reality: Diminishing breasts do not necessarily manifest lack of breast milk. After childbirth, breasts of the new mother swell with breast milk, sometimes even painfully. They usually regain their original size within several days. However, they continue to produce the same amount of milk, sometimes even more during the first days after childbirth. The myth saying that women with large breasts breastfeed better or have more milk is also false.
Myth: You have to stick firmly to a breastfeeding schedule; otherwise you will spoil the baby.
Reality: This does not apply; however, it is good to keep a certain regularity according to the baby's needs. Frequent breastfeeding increases lactation and gives the baby a feeling of comfort and satisfaction.
Myth: You can increase lactation by drinking dark beer.
Reality: The amount of breast milk is related to the amount of liquids the mother drinks and the frequency of breastfeeding.
Myth: A sick mother cannot breastfeed.
Reality: Mothers can breastfeed with almost all illnesses. The exception includes oncological diseases and some rare illnesses. The decision depends on the physician. However, if a mother feels exhausted or weak, it is better to refrain from breastfeeding.
Myth: If the baby's stool is green, the baby is hungry.
Reality: Babies get green and loose stool very often. If the baby is really hungry, then his/her stool is brown colour, with mucus.
Myth: As soon as the baby gets formula, he/she will refuse to breastfeed.
Reality: Formula is seasoned for older babies - ca from eight months of age. If it is necessary to feed the baby formula, then the baby should get the amount to feel satisfied, not overfilled. Therefore, the baby will be sated to the appropriate level and you don't have to worry that he/she will refuse to breastfeed upon the next feeding.
Myth: When I breastfeed, I can't get pregnant.
Reality: If you're not planning on having another baby soon, do NOT rely on this old wives’ tale and use other forms of contraception.
Advice and Tips About Pregnancy and Childbirth Which Border on Myths but Are Worth Consideration:
- You should announce your pregnancy only after you finish the third month, i.e. the first trimester, in order not to jinx it.
You will not jinx anything - you can announce your pregnancy at any time you find suitable, but it is true that the first trimester is the riskiest, so it is better to announce the happy news later for the sake of peace of the expectant mother. Until the first trimester is successfully over, spread the news only among the ones closest to you.
- A woman must not leave her house in the postpartum period.
This myth has probably generated for the fear of infection. Infectious diseases without appropriate treatment may be fatal for a woman in the postpartum period.
Pregnancy is a specific period in the life of women. The truth is that anything can happen and one can never be too careful. However, both pregnancy and birth are natural phenomena and as such they should be accompanied with pleasant expectation, happiness and good joyful mood, not by fear, worries and superstition.