Pregnancy myths

Pregnancy Myths, Superstitions and Old Wives’ Tales From Around the World

Pregnancy myths, old wives’ tales and superstitions play an important role within society whether we realise it or not. Cultures around the world have different superstitions about every topic in life, with pregnancy and babies always being popular subjects. Since the dawn of time the world and its cultures have had strange ideas about pregnancy. Some ideas might seem silly, while others are seen to be life and death. Although the below list is seen as a compilation of ‘myths’ and superstitions, we must always remember that, to some, these ideas are revered and taken as fact. Whether or not we believe them, we should keep an open mind and, if anything, learn something about other cultures’ beliefs.

Old Wives’ Tales About Determining a Baby’s Sex

Can you predict your baby's sex?
credit: theconversation

Myths and superstitions about determining the baby’s sex have been highly popular over the ages for one reason: they are right 50% of the time. Biological sex has been and forever will be a hot topic of debate for anyone who can experience pregnancy. With so many old wives’ tales floating around, is it possible for any of them to be true?

Carrying Low or High

A very well known pregnancy myth revolves around the pregnant person’s extended torso. Many will say that if the belly is low, a baby boy will be born. If it is high, a little girl will be welcomed into the world. Of course, thousands of years of reproduction and many studies have concluded that this is simply an old wives’ tale. Whether you are carrying high or low is no indication of the sex of the baby.

The Ring Test

The ring test is a test that many people like to try out if they believe it or not. According to the myth, a wedding ring, needle or pin must be tied onto a strand of hair and dangled over the pregnant belly. If the hanging item swings sideways, chances are it will be a boy. If the ring swings in circles a girl is expected. 

As you might expect, because of how easy it might be to manipulate the hanging object subconsciously, this myth is myth-busted. Hanging anything over a pregnant belly will not be any indication of whether you have a little boy or girl

Morning Sickness

This pregnancy myth is pretty straightforward. If the pregnant person experiences severe morning sickness, they will be having a girl. Why? We really aren’t too sure.

Glowing or Not

Yet another pregnancy myth that seems to be in favour of families having a boy. According to this old wives’ tale, if the pregnant parent-to-be is ‘glowing’, they are having a boy. It is a common superstition that having a daughter takes away one’s beauty and removes that renowned ‘glow’ that everyone seems to talk about.

Unborn Baby’s Heart Rate

This pregnancy myth is almost backed by science – almost. Many people think that a higher heart rate is indicative of having a girl. While this would have been a fun thing to be accurate, it isn’t true. Fetal heart rates usually stand between 120 – 160 beats per minute, which is a lot faster than an adult’s. During its development, the heart rate will change drastically, too. So no, if you are picking up on a fast heart rate when you are having a scan, it does not necessarily mean that you are having a baby girl.

Sweet or Salty Cravings

Sugar and spice and all things nice… or so the saying goes. If you’re craving every sweet thing in the world, this pregnancy myth states that you will be having a girl. Salty cravings, however, mean you will have a boy. Once again, you can’t know if you are having a boy or girl based on your odd, but totally understandable cravings.

Partner’s Weight Gain

Best not to even ask where this one came from. Apparently if your partner puts on weight during your pregnancy (called sympathy weight), you’re going to have a girl. Then again, some pregnancy myths state that if your partner doesn’t put on weight you’ll have a girl. It looks like we will never know for sure but does it really matter?

Old Wives’ Tales about Bad Luck During Pregnancy

A ultrasound of a baby
credit: bbc

In many cultures doing (or not doing) certain things can be seen as horribly bad luck. While we might like to think that we make our own luck, these superstitions are taken very seriously in some parts of the world.

Do Not Attend Weddings

In Chinese culture it can be seen as being bad luck if you attend a wedding while pregnant. This is because it is bad luck to outshine the bride with that famous pregnancy glow. Having someone who is pregnant in the same room as the bride and groom is said to cause a clash of ‘qi energy’ or ‘luck’ as many might know it. This clash can backfire on the pregnancy and misfortune may find itself attached to the unborn child.

Do Not Attend Funerals

This superstition spans several cultures, including some Native American and Jewish. According to this pregnancy myth, attending a funeral while pregnant can result in miscarriage. Thankfully, this is no more than a superstition but it might be worth avoiding overly stressful events if you are pregnant, just to be safe.

Do Not Announce Your Pregnancy

According to Bulgarian tradition, announcing pregnancies can be bad luck and result in a miscarriage. This is because it is thought that by making the announcement, you are jinxing the baby’s life. Because of this pregnancy myth, it is common for Bulgarian women to hide their pregnancies for as long as possible. 

This superstition likely revolves around the fact that miscarriage is more common in the first trimester and rare in the second and third. By keeping the pregnancy a secret, it is thought that you are keeping the child safe, as well as ensuring that the pregnancy will go to full term.

Do Not Have a Baby Shower or Receive Gifts

There’s a reason you don’t see baby showers in Jewish culture. According to Jewish pregnancy myths, buying an unborn baby a gift of any kind is bad luck and invites evil. This evil will cause chaos and potentially cause a miscarriage because you showed your happiness by having a baby shower.

Do Not Let Strangers or Acquaintances Touch Your Pregnancy Belly

In many cultures a pregnant parent will not allow anyone except close friends and family to touch their baby bump. This is because they believe that by strangers touching their pregnant belly, they are inviting evil to their child. Many people believe that allowing others to place their hands on a pregnant stomach could result in the child being taken from the womb, likely in the form of a miscarriage.

Do Not Step Over Rope

Stepping over rope is seen as bad luck to many. In this pregnancy myth, it is believed that, by stepping over rope, you are twisting the umbilical cord around your baby’s neck. As with all of these so far, this is entirely false. Stepping over rope, no matter the kind, will not have any consequence on the positioning of the umbilical cord within a pregnant person’s womb. 

Do Not Raise Your Hands Above Your Head

Much like the one above, this pregnancy myth states that lifting your hands above your head will cause the umbilical cord to wrap around your unborn baby’s head. It should be noted that nothing you do will have an effect on the umbilical cord’s position around your unborn baby.

Pregnancy Myths About Your Baby and Birth

Are pregnancy myths true?
credit: healthblog

Lastly, we will look at a few pregnancy myths about labour and the baby. These are all interesting and one might even be a little bit backed by science. In the end, there really is no way of knowing how you are going to give birth, when you are going to give birth or what the baby will end up looking like. Strange things can happen, after all. 

Anyone Carrying an Unborn Baby Should Not Dye Their Hair

It comes as no surprise that some hair dyes do have harmful chemicals. Many people say that you should not dye your hair while you’re pregnant because it can harm the baby. While colouring your hair is not harmful to you or the baby (if you are not allergic), dying your hair too much probably isn’t good for anyone. If you are worried about the safety of your baby and have a hair appointment coming up, don’t worry about it. Dying your hair does not put your baby in harm’s way.

Heartburn Means Your Baby Will be Hairy

Okay, this one has very weak evidence to back it up but evidence nonetheless. This pregnancy ‘myth’ states that heartburn during pregnancy is an indicator of how hairy the baby will be when it is born. A small study was done on this topic and it was found that those who rated their heartburn as being more severe during pregnancy gave birth to babies with more hair on their heads. The baby’s ‘luscious locks’ were rated by others and the high ratings aligned with the heartburn feedback experienced by the pregnant parent. So, if you are experiencing a lot of heartburn, you might actually give birth to a baby with some wondrous hair.

You Should Not Exercise While Pregnant

This pregnancy myth is nothing more than that – a myth. While it is not recommended to start exercising when you are pregnant, it is good to continue being active when you are with child. As everybody is different, some expecting parents can continue their exercise regimes even if they are seen to be ‘extreme’ but this is not for everyone. Toning down on some exercises might be a good idea for some, while continuing at the same or a similar rate might work well for others. It is always best to consult a professional before rushing to a decision in these cases.

Flying Must be Avoided While Pregnant

A common pregnancy myth and not always one you should listen to. The risk associated with flying is targeted towards the increased risk of blood clots forming. While it is not recommended to necessarily fly when you are near your due date for obvious reasons, flying is not a cause for concern. You do not have to cancel your flight or holiday simply because you are pregnant. If you feel comfortable enough to fly then there is no real reason for you not to unless advised otherwise by your care provider. 

Not Indulging in Cravings Can Lead to the Baby Having a Birthmark

A very interesting pregnancy myth indeed. Many hold the belief that it is your duty, as the pregnant parent, to indulge in your cravings. By doing this, you are preventing your unborn baby from having a birthmark in the shape of the food you refused to eat. Of course, not all cravings are actually edible, so if you think you are craving the taste of a brick, get in contact with your care provider as soon as possible. If you have been eyeing that pickle and orange juice combo, however, what’s stopping you? Do you want your baby to have a birthmark in the shape of a pickle for their whole lives?

You Must Avoid an Eclipse at all Costs

This pregnancy myth seems to originate from India. The belief is that the eclipse and any ray of light from it must be avoided by anyone who is pregnant. Any pregnant individuals are expected to stay home in the event of an eclipse and stay indoors with the windows shut so that no light can get into the building. In India an eclipse is seen to be a bad omen and, for the duration of the eclipse, no sharp objects must be touched. You are expected to fast, rest and refrain from bathing until the eclipse has passed or else you risk dire consequences.

Rubbing Your Belly Too Much Can Result in a Spoiled Child

Another pregnancy myth originating from China. This superstition works on the grounds of showing affection to an unborn baby by rubbing a pregnant belly. By rubbing the belly too much, the child will become spoiled and demanding as an infant and as they grow up. So, if you don’t fancy having a demanding child in the house, limit the amount of time you spend rubbing your pregnant belly.

More Babies are Born on a Full Moon

The moon is a common factor in pregnancy myths (if you don’t believe me, just google it). Many people swear that more babies are born during a full moon. Why? We have no idea. Statistically there is no significant difference in the number of births on a full moon compared to any other moon phase. Considering that it’s widely believed that animals change on a full moon, it isn’t so hard to see where this myth might have come from.

What Do You Think About These Pregnancy Myths?

pregnancy myths
credit: sbhny

This list is by no means all of the pregnancy myths, superstitions and old wives’ tales out there, but they are interesting. In some countries it’s widely believed that pregnant people shouldn’t look at anything that is considered to be ugly for fear of their babies being ugly when born. Others believe that the position you were in during intercourse has an effect on the sex of the baby. Some of these ideas may seem outlandish and others might feel real. Which pregnancy myths, superstitions or old wives’ tales did you grow up hearing about?

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