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Heartburn during pregnancy doesn't mean your baby will have a ton of hair: 5 myths about pregnancy

June 3, 2022 Maternity

Hang a ring on a string around your stomach. Does it move from side to side, or does it go in a circle? Pee into a cup of baking soda and see if it fizzles or not. Eat a lot of garlic and then ask people if you smell like it.

According to the legends, the answers will tell you if you're having a boy or a girl.

While these can be fun little tests, they're not scientific and they're definitely not as accurate as an ultrasound. Scratch that — they aren't accurate at all.

When it comes to pregnancy, these are hardly the only myths. Take a look at these five myths — debunked:

Myth: Heartburn during pregnancy means your baby will be born with a full head of hair.

Fact: There may be a connection between heartburn and hair, but you don't need to go out and buy scrunchies just yet.

Back in 2006, a study published in the journal Birth did find a correlation between a woman's degree of heartburn during pregnancy and how much hair her newborn had, but there are a couple of reasons to take this with a grain of salt (but just a grain, since too much salt can trigger heartburn):

  1. The study was very small — it only included 64 women. (For the record, there are millions of pregnancies in the US every year).
  2. The evidence collected was mostly anecdotal. Women self-reported their level of heartburn, so it's possible that each woman had their own definition of "severe" or "mild."

So… why the connection?

Baby hair itself probably isn't causing heartburn. The more likely culprit is progesterone. Progesterone is a hormone that is known to cause the valve between your stomach and esophagus (the tube that brings food and liquids from your mouth to your stomach) to relax during pregnancy. When the valve is relaxed, stomach acid can more easily pass into the esophagus, irritating the lining and increasing the frequency of heartburn. The connection is that progesterone also happens to cause a baby's hair to grow.

If you have heartburn during pregnancy, it's better to focus on preventing it rather than on finding a baby barber. Avoid eating greasy, fatty, or spicy foods, and make sure to wait an hour after eating before you lie down.

Myth: If you eat peanuts during pregnancy, your child will have a peanut allergy.

Fact: Peanut butter lovers rejoice: You don't have to give up your beloved snack (or any variation of peanuts) while pregnant.

Years ago, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommended that pregnant women stay away from peanuts, in an effort to protect their child from developing a peanut allergy. However, based on the results of two major studies, they changed their guidance in recent years.

Today, the AAP does not support cutting out certain foods from your diet during pregnancy or while breastfeeding as a way of preventing allergies.

Myth: You need to send your cat on vacation for 9 months.

Fact: Don't panic. Your fur baby can safely co-exist with the real baby developing inside of you.

The concern is due to the fact that cats can spread an infection called toxoplasmosis that can be passed onto your baby if you're infected during or right before pregnancy. Cats can shed the parasite that causes the infection in their feces. If you accidentally touch your mouth after changing your kitty's litter box, — or after working without gloves in a garden that your cat decided to use as a litter box — you can be exposed to toxoplasmosis.

For Pregnant Cat Ladies:

You can lower your risk for toxoplasmosis by:

  • Having someone else change the litter throughout your pregnancy (#perk). If you need to do it yourself, wear gloves and wash your hands thoroughly right after.
  • Making sure the litter is changed every day. The parasite doesn't become infectious right away — it takes anywhere from 1 to 5 days. So if you can have someone scoop it out before then, you may be able to avoid exposure.
  • Keeping your cat inside, if possible. Toxoplasmosis is generally only found in outdoor cats.

Myth: You can jumpstart labor by chowing down on pineapple.

Fact: Sadly for pineapple lovers, you can't.

The rumor started because fresh pineapple has bromelain, which is an enzyme that's often used as a meat tenderizer. The pineapple-causes-labor-crowd often claim that the bromelain causes the tissue in your cervix to break down, softening the cervix and stimulating labor.

Unfortunately, there doesn't appear to be much truth in this.

In fact, while pineapple is an excellent source of nutrition, it can lead to heartburn — something that is already a problem for many pregnant women.

Myth: It's best to wait until after you give birth to get a flu shot or COVID-19 vaccine.

Fact: Actually, it's just the opposite.

Flu and COVID-19 vaccines are essential parts of prenatal care.

Pregnant women are at an increased risk for developing severe symptoms, requiring hospitalization, or being admitted to the intensive care unit from both of these illnesses. They're also at a higher risk for pregnancy complications, like giving birth preterm (before 37 weeks of pregnancy), which can increase the risk for disability or even death.

Flu and COVID-19 vaccines are effective and safe — and not just for mothers. While newborns are too young to get vaccinated, there has been evidence that they can receive a layer of protection from the diseases if their mother was vaccinated during pregnancy.

For both the flu and COVID-19, major medical associations like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say that it is safe to get vaccinated at any point throughout your pregnancy.

If you are getting the COVID-19 vaccine, you do need to pay attention to which vaccine you're receiving. The CDC recommends that most women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should get the mRNA vaccine (by Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna), since the Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccine may cause blood clots and low platelet counts. However, don't panic if you received the J&J/Janssen one. According to the American Medical Association, the severe side effects are very rare, and it's more of a risk to not get vaccinated at all.

Get the facts from the experts

Some pregnancy myths, like the heartburn and hair connection, are merely fun to think about. If you believe them, you risk not much more than a blow to your ego if you're wrong.

On the other hand, some myths — like the one claiming that it's dangerous to get vaccinated during pregnancy — can have significant impacts on your health and your baby's health. At the end of the day, talking to your provider and getting their advice is the best way to protect you and your baby.

Main Line Health serves patients at hospitals and health centers throughout the western suburbs of Philadelphia. To schedule an appointment with a maternity specialist at Main Line Health, call 1.866.CALL.MLH (225.5654) or use our secure online appointment request form.