Pregnancy Advice: Separating Fact from Fiction
An expert weighs-in on opinions that are sometimes accepted as conventional wisdom. Are they true?

Whether it’s that well-meaning lady at work, or your mom, or even that new online group you joined just for moms, it seems like the minute you get that positive pregnancy test, everyone has advice.

But is that advice always sound? How can you tell the fact from the myth? We took a look at five common pieces of advice, and asked Sheri Puffer, M.D., an obstetrician/gynecologist and physician on the medical staff at Texas Health Arlington Memorial, to help us separate the good advice from the bad advice.

Advice: “Taking castor oil will help start your labor.”

Verdict: Fiction

“Castor oil is not recommended to help start labor,” Puffer said. “It will cause you to feel sick and have diarrhea.”

An Australian study found that while castor oil didn’t seem to harm mom or baby, it wasn’t effective as a labor inducer, either.

Advice: “Applying cocoa butter to your stomach while you’re pregnant can help you avoid stretch marks.”

Verdict: Fiction

“Nope,” said Puffer. “There is no proven method of preventing stretch marks. Mostly it is about genetics and how quickly you gain weight. The faster you put on weight, the more your skin stretches.”

However, don’t toss that bottle. “Cocoa butter is never a bad idea though as moisture can help with itching from the stretch marks,” Puffer added.

Advice: “You should avoid salmon and other fish while pregnant.”

Verdict: Fiction, with a caveat

While this one likely has its genesis in warnings not to eat sushi, and to limit tuna, Puffer said this advice was “absolutely false.”

“There are only a few main fish to avoid while pregnant: king mackerel, swordfish, albacore tuna, shark, tilefish,” she said. “Two servings a week of other fish or cooked shellfish are great and full of protein, nutrients and omega-3 fatty acids.”

Advice: “Don’t lift your hands over your head while you’re pregnant – it will cause the cord to strangle the baby.”

Verdict: Fiction

“The truth is, your movements have absolutely no effect on the umbilical cord. It’s pretty common for the cord to be around the baby’s neck when baby is born, and it’s not necessarily anything to worry about,” pregnancy go-to website The Bump added.

“The umbilical cord runs between your placenta and the baby’s umbilicus (stomach area). It is not connected to your arms in any way shape or form,” health and wellness site Verywell also said.

Advice: “You should abstain from alcohol during pregnancy.”

Verdict: Fact

“Absolutely!” Puffer said. “There is no safe level of alcohol during pregnancy.”

“When you drink alcohol during pregnancy, the alcohol in your blood quickly passes through the placenta and the umbilical cord to your baby,” the March of Dimes explains further. “The placenta grows in your uterus (womb) and supplies the baby with food and oxygen through the umbilical cord.”

“When a pregnant woman drinks alcohol, so does her baby,” the Centers for Disease Control added.

If you’d still like to celebrate or kick back here are nine months of mocktails to help you get in the festive spirit without the actual spirits.

Are you newly pregnant and looking for an obstetrician? Head to Texas Health Resources’ Women’s Health page.

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