'There's no safe level of caffeine' and other pregnancy myths

Jane Corscadden August 25, 2020
'There's no safe level of caffeine' and other pregnancy myths

A new study has shown that there is no safe level of caffeine consumption for pregnant people. However, experts say this is alarmist. Its findings go against current advice from the NHS, which suggests that 200mg of caffeine a day – the equivalent of two instant coffees – is perfectly safe. In light of this, we took a deep dive in to debunking common pregnancy myths, to help new parents breathe a little easier.

It can be hard for those who are pregnant to keep up with what they should be doing to ensure their health and that of their newborn. The advice changes often, depending on new studies, and on the culture you find yourself living in.

For instance, in Korea, seaweed soup is the go-to for recovery post-partum, but the safety of this long-standing tradition has even been questioned recently.

Similarly, fish is deemed necessary for the development of the baby’s brain, but too much can lead to dangerous levels of mercury.

Such conflicts in advice are sure to leave pregnant people confused. What pregnancy myths are still out there?

Photo by Mike Kenneally on Unsplash.

Eating for two

One of the longest-running pregnancy myths is that of “eating for two.” A survey from the National Charity Partnership has found that 63% of pregnant people report feeling under pressure from others to eat bigger meals than normal.

However, official NICE guidance states that energy levels do not change in the first six months of pregnancy.

As a result, those who are pregnant only require an extra 200 calories per day in the last three months of pregnancy. A lot less than eating for two every meal!

Eating peanuts during pregnancy will lead to allergies

This is another pregnancy myth founded on studies from both ends of the spectrum.

A 2010 study found that babies whose mothers ate peanuts during pregnancy ended up having a higher risk of developing a serious nut allergy.

However, this was debunked in a 2012 study. This study found the exact opposite was true – that eating nuts in pregnancy actually reduces the chance of childhood nut allergy.

This remains the prevailing advice – eating nuts during pregnancy is perfectly safe, as long as you aren’t allergic to them yourself of course.

Eating spicy foods can induce labour

This is one of the most common pregnancy myths. So much so, it is even frequently mentioned on TV and in films, such as the season 8 episode of Friends, “The One Where Rachel is Late”:

It has become so prevalent that a 2011 study looking at ways to induce labour studied it.

Of the 50% of women in this study who had tried self-inducing labour, 20% claimed eating spicy foods for this reason.

Interestingly, there is no scientific evidence to support that this works. Although they taste good, chowing down on a mountain of hot wings 38 weeks into your pregnancy won’t necessarily get things going. Sorry!

To eat or not to eat?

The pregnancy myths listed above are just the tip of the iceberg. There is so much conflicting advice online about what to eat and not to eat, that things can become confusing.

The best advice is if you are pregnant, listen to your doctor’s advice. If you have any questions relating to your health, relay them to your doctor – not to Google.

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Jane is a freelance journalist from Belfast, Northern Ireland specialising in news, culture and politics. She studied Politics at Queen’s University Belfast before completing a Journalism MA at the University of Ulster. Always trawling social media and keeping up to date with the latest trends and crazes, her main interest lies in digital culture and internet trends.