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Debunking the Myths, Misconceptions, and Misinformation About First Trimester Pregnancy

  • There is no other medical topic area that has more myths than pregnancy!  Many of these are based on long-standing "old wives" tales; many are based on misinformation, or accurate information carried to an extreme.  Today we'll try to debunk some of them.

  • If you have bad morning sickness, it's a girl; mild or none means it's a boy.  There is no way to tell in the first trimester whether you are having a boy or a girl.

  • You are eating for two.  While your appetite may increase significantly during early pregnancy, your actual caloric needs are only slightly increased during this trimester.  Be sensible about your food intake.

  • You can't take any medications at all.  It seems that some women don't heed advice about stopping harmful substances in pregnancy at all (can you believe that nearly 15% of pregnant women continue to drink alcohol?), whereas other women will suffer great discomfort from conditions as diverse as pain, allergies, yeast infections, etc. to avoid taking any medications at all.  There are many medications-over-the-counter and prescriptions-known to be safe in pregnancy; as with any medication issues, when in doubt, ask your clinician or pharmacist.

  • If you are exposed to x-rays while pregnant, you will have a miscarriage or your baby will have horrible birth defects.  Radiation exposure is not good for pregnant women or their fetuses, but if a fetus is accidentally exposed to a small amount of radiation (from a chest x-ray for example), it is extremely unlikely that any damage will result.  Any time a woman suspects she is pregnant, however, she should inform any health care provider involved in administering any kind of x-ray or other radiation-related test or treatment.

  • Miscarriages are caused by _________________.  This is a fill-in-the-blank myth.  Old wives tales abound about miscarriages being caused by everything from stress, to sex, to excessive exercise, to bad karma, and even misalignment of the astrological signs.  The fact is that first trimester miscarriages are very common:  some estimates are as high as one out of every 9 pregnancies ending in miscarriage.  In most of these situations, the cause is unknown (most likely a genetic abnormality) and there is nothing that could be done to prevent it or to stop it once the process is set in motion.  This is very different than with second trimester miscarriages or with third trimester preterm labor or fetal death.  Many women who have had first trimester miscarriages suffer from extended guilt that there may have been something they did to bring on the miscarriage or that they didn't do something proactively enough to prevent it.

Created: 12/1/2003  -  Donnica Moore, M.D.

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