Fueling Modern Pregnancy Myths

Ultrasound Is the Best Way to Tell

Moore said she has heard many more myths about how to guess the sex of the baby after conception, including myths that suggest carrying high or low can predict the gender, and bad morning sickness means a baby girl.

"The other one that drove me crazy is if you had terrible indigestion, it's a girl, or the baby will have a full head of hair," said Moore.

"In the year 2009, the best way to tell if it's a boy or a girl is an ultrasound," said Moore.

Moore, who spent years working as an obstetrician, thinks awe, more than ignorance, fuels many of these pregnancy myths.

"As much science as we know about pregnancy and childbirth, it's all really unbelievable. It's a miracle," said Moore. "Every single time ( at birth), part of me was feeling like, 'there's no way a baby's coming out of there."

"We want to be able to explain things that we can't otherwise explain," she said.

Explaining What We Don't Understand

Young feels the same sentiment fueled the study about cereal and the baby's gender.

"There's sort of a bias that comes into this," said Young. "Human beings like a rational explanation; they don't like a random cause."

However, that same search for an explanation may fuel myths about miscarriages, too. Moore said many women, and doctors, have trouble explaining what happened in a miscarriage.

"At this point, science can't give us a clear explanation for why one in nine pregnancies end in miscarriages," said Moore. "In most cases the cause is just unknown, and doctors assume that most likely it was some sort of genetic abnormality."

Just like pregnancy and gender, misconceptions abound about what causes a miscarriage or an early labor.

Spicy food, exercise, any sex at all and sleeping on your back are all popular misconceptions about troublesome labor, or danger to the baby.

Moore once had a patient who preemptively ended a pregnancy because she was convinced she had damaged the baby.

"She had chest X-rays and later found out she was pregnant and then had an abortion because she thought she had caused damage to the baby," said Moore. "Then, tragically, she had complications with the abortion."

While it's not a great idea to get X-rays during pregnancy, Moore said the fetus was likely OK.

"If a fetus is exposed to enough radiation to cause damage, it probably would be major damage like the Hiroshima bomb or Chernobyl," she said.

Moore thinks the myths about miscarriage and damage might be the most damaging.

"It's the opposite of the miracle explanation," said Moore. "As a result of many of these myths, many women suffer from tremendous guilt that they may have done something wrong."

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