The Truth Behind All Those Pregnancy Old Wives’ Tales

If you’ve ever been pregnant then the chances are good that an old wives’ tale (or 27) have been thrown your way.

Often, they’re about predicting the gender. Sometimes they’re myths masquerading as ‘helpful’ advice. And occasionally they’re just really random s**t that your Aunty Sue needs an excuse to tell you (“Oh, I see you’re enjoying cucumber, that means your baby will have an exceptionally large nose.”)

We recently asked the Mum Central Facebook community about old wives’ tales and it seems you’ve all heard some DOOZIES!

Is there any truth to the tales we get told? We spoke with Registered Nurse and Midwife Edwina Sharrock from Birth Beat Childbirth Education, to find out.

Make believe, with a grain of truth

Old wives’ tales had to start SOMEWHERE. While many play pretty loose and easy with the truth, Edwina thinks most probably started off solid, but became slightly more unbelievable as time went on. “Look, there is some truth to many of the tales we’re told,” says Edwina, “though they’re not always based on fact.”

True or false?

Direct from the Mum Central Facebook community, we rounded up the most common old wives tales and asked Edwina to weigh in.

Myth 1: Craving sweet things means you’re having a girl and salty means a boy.

FALSE. “There is no science behind this whatsoever,” says Edwina. What cravings CAN mean however is that your body is begging you for a specific nutrient that may be lacking. “The body is very in-tune to feeding your unborn baby and if our body is deficient in something, it will sometimes crave it.”

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Myth 2: If you have heartburn or indigestion during pregnancy, your baby will have a full head of hair when born.

FALSE.  Edwina calls fake on this one. There’s really nothing to link hair and heartburn. And take it from this mother-of-three; you can ABSOLUTELY have heartburn during pregnancy and pop out a baldie. It’s happened to me three times over.

Myth 3: If you’re expecting a boy, you’ll carry all out front. With a girl, you carry around your middle.

FALSE. “The way you carry is all to do with your anatomy and physiology and potentially where your uterus and placenta sit,” says Edwina. The number of pregnancies you’ve had and the size of your baby also play a role in how your tummy will look, not whether you’re smuggling a tiny penis versus a tiny vagina.

Myth 4: ‘Morning sickness’ ends after the first twelve weeks.

TRUE (KIND OF). “The data says that it [morning sickness] does for the majority,” says Edwina. “Morning sickness is actually about a response to the hormonal change within the woman, that’s what causes it.” That hormonal change causes the things we typically associate with morning sickness; nausea, exhaustion, the inability to eat anything other than cheese Twisties. The science tells us that this usually passes after the first trimester. “It’s also important to note the difference between morning sickness and Hyperemesis Gravidarum,” says Edwina. The latter is a serious medical condition that needs treatment from your caregiver to be managed effectively.

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Myth 5: You can’t get pregnant while breastfeeding.

FALSE. “That is a big, fat false,” says Edwina “The minute you ovulate, you can get pregnant.” The tricky thing? You don’t always know that you are ovulating. “Yes, it decreases your chances but you have to be exclusively breastfeeding [very regularly] and not ovulating,” warns Edwina.

Myth 6: Foetal movements can decrease towards full term.

TRUE (WITH SOME EXCEPTIONS) – “Yes, that is actually true,” says Edwina. “The reality is is that there is less room as your pregnancy progresses.” What is important is that women can identify that there ARE movements happening, ideally ten or more within 24 hours.

Edwina recommends that you speak with your care provider if you’re ever concerned, and take some time to track movements if/when they happen. “If there is a dramatic decrease in your foetal movements, you should never hesitate to contact your care provider,” Edwina adds. If in doubt, always check in with the professionals.

Myth 7: Your due date is just an educated guess/estimate.

TRUE. “38-42 weeks is considered a ‘normal’ gestational period,”says Edwina. “I advise all my Birth Beat mums to avoid sharing a due date.” This avoids any pressure and gives you plenty of breathing room. Sound advice we think!

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Myth 8: Scrub your nipples with a scrubbing brush or scourer to toughen them up ready for breastfeeding!

FALSE. “This is a terrible, terrible old wives tale,” says Edwina. “Unfortunately it comes from a lack of education around breastfeeding which means that people expect breastfeeding to be painful, which it shouldn’t be.” Edwina recommends seeking plenty of help and advice regarding attachment and the correct way to feed from your midwife while you’re still learning.

Myth 9: You can use castor oil to bring on baby if overdue.

TRUE AND FALSE. Yes, people still try this one (and we’re not sure why). Castor Oil is designed to irritate your bowel (think diarrhoea for days). All that pooping CAN sometimes irritate the uterus which could potentially kick start labour. It is NOT an advisable way to get things started though. Edwina’s best advice? Let nature take its course.

Old Wives’ Tales exposed

Here’s some more weird, wonderful and downright wacky old wives’ tales from our Mum Central community. Make sure to join the conversation on Facebook and tell us about which wives’ tales you’ve heard.

  • “With boys you glow, Girls steal your beauty.” Belinda
  • “Your “morning sickness” would end after week 12. What a load of BS. Mine was all day sickness until 33 weeks!” Ash
  • “Eating raw egg, for an easy birth. It’s supposed to make the baby just slide out.” Leonora
  • “You shouldn’t hang the washing out while pregnant as it can cause the cord to wrap around the baby’s neck.” Emma
  • “If you lay down, feet up the wall or head down on stairs, you can get bubs out of breech.” Naomi
  • “To get your nipples ready for breast feeding brush them with a toothbrush.” Maree
Avatar of Naomi Foxall

Naomi is 3/4 latte drinking, peanut butter obsessed former magazine girl who now does stuff with words for a living while juggling 2.5 kids, 2 cats, 1 rabbit, husband and an unhealthy obsession with slow cooking.

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