Did you know that not all these pregnancy myths in Singapore are fiction? There may some truth to them, reveals Dr. Watt Wing Fong...
There is probably no other aspect of human life that has so many myths and superstitions attached to it as pregnancy and childbirth.
We got chatting with Dr Watt Wing Fong, obstetrician and gynaecologist with SMG’s Women’s Health at Gleneagles Medical Centre, about some of these old wives tales.
We were surprised to know that not all these myths were the result of over imaginative minds. There may be some truth to (some of) them after all!
Here then, are 16 pregnancy myths in Singapore, and the truth, finally revealed!
Pregnancy myths in Singapore: Getting pregnant
- Acupuncture can help with fertility
“There’s some truth in it. It may be able to improve blood flow, to the ovaries, to the uterus, to the uteral lining. In fact there are some centres in Singapore that make use of acupuncture to go hand in hand with IVF cycles, as a combination.”
“Of course, acupuncture alone may not have that sort of impact..it’s usually done with traditional Chinese medicine or in combination with IVF.”
- High Stress levels make it harder to get pregnant
“There may be some truth in it…it may not be a direct impact though. High stress may affect ovulation, and affect the hormones. High stress may make couples less interested in sex and even affect performance.”
- Doing ‘it’ when you feel frisky improves your chances of getting pregnant
“You can’t take this at face value. Different people may feel frisky at different times (laughs). Theoretically speaking, some people do feel friskier during ovulation time, and that may of course increase the chances of pregnancy.”
“At other instances, it may not work at all!”
- Orgasms increase the chances of getting pregnant
“I’m not sure if it’s scientifically proven, but there are a few studies, a few theories which suggest some truth to that statement.”
“Apparently, during an orgasm, there is some sort of contraction, leading to greater sucking up of semen and sperm, leading to greater sperm/semen retention.”
Pregnancy myths in Singapore: During Pregnancy
- If you want a fair skinned baby eat light-coloured food and avoid soy sauce and coffee.
“There is absolutely no truth in it.”
- Eating some fruits like pineapples increases chances of a miscarriage.
“I don’t think it is true.”
“I advise my patients to go ahead and eat these fruits if they feel like. The key word is moderation. The normal amount you eat is not likely to have any impact at all.”
- Avoid building sites and even home renovations as loud noises like sawing, drilling and hammering are bad for babies.
“Well, it is true that very loud noise is bad for the baby. Not from renovation and drilling (baby is quite well protected in water), but sometimes if you blast really, really loud music near the pregnant mum’s belly, it can actually damage the baby’s hearing.”
- Pregnant women shouldn’t do any heavy work, exercise or have sex, to avoid miscarriage
“‘Heavy work’ depends on how heavy the work is, and what gestation it is.”
“Usually if the woman is newly pregnant I don’t recommend heavy work because the body is trying to get accustomed to the pregnancy. Pregnancy itself is quite taxing to the body, for instance, the heart has to work harder, pump harder. It isn’t advisable to stress the body any further.”
“Mild intensity exercise is of course not an issue in the first trimester. Moderate intensity is quite okay in the 2nd trimester, though I would advise against going for high intensity workouts.”
“We do recommend pregnant mummies to stay active. It helps in weight control, lung function, avoids deep vein thrombosis, and it helps when they go into labour.”
“Sex is allowed during pregnancy. Usually sex does not lead to labour. But nearing the due date, it may bring on labour. It doesn’t cause miscarriage though.”
- Pregnant women should avoid eating shellfish and pineapple as they could cause rashes or even miscarriages.
“I feel that shellfish is not a concern to pregnancy but the worry may be hepatitis A. If you are not prone to allergies, I don’t think taking shellfish will increase the risk of allergies for the baby.”
“Allergies generally depend on many factors like genetic factors and family history.”
- The shape and size of the belly could tell you if the baby is a boy or a girl. If the belly is “pointed,” it will be a boy; if “rounded,” a girl.
“I just want to say that there is definitely no truth to it.”
Pregnancy myths in Singapore: After delivery
- For 30 days after childbirth, the woman is expected to stay in bed and not do any heavy work, including housework.
“For new mums, we tell them that they should still stay active, to avoid conditions like deep vein thrombosis (talking of normal pregnancy). Even for C- section mummies, they shouldn’t be doing any strenuous activity but they should still be walking around.”
“We don’t recommend mums to carry any heavy load because after a delivery the pelvic support is very, very weak. Carrying heavy weights increases the pressure on the abdomen and there is increased risk of a prolapse. The uterus may prolapse, and there may be higher risk of incontinence.”
- Taking a shower during the month is not allowed. Traditional belief holds that after childbirth, the woman’s skin is loose and water can enter through holes in the skin. This could cause a cold which the baby could also catch.
“There’s no truth to it. Traditionally, they say that if the ‘wind’ gets into the body it’s likely to affect your health and when you get old, you might be at risk of rheumatism.”
“There are no such theories in Western medicine.”
- Brushing the teeth during the postpartum month could loosen the teeth and make gums bleed.
“Definitely untrue, oral hygiene is a must at all times.”
- New mums should eat protein-rich soups (considered “hot”) as they increase breast milk and balance the “coldness” of the postpartum period.
“Well, we definitely encourage a well balanced diet, and breastfeeding mums should be well nourished.”
“The ‘hot’ and ‘cold’ is part of TCM (no basis in western medicine). According to Chinese beliefs, pregnancy is a heaty stage and after delivery it is the cooling stage.”
- New mums should avoid fruits and other “cold” foods.
“No such practice in western medicine.”
- New mums should avoid sexual activity for at least one month.
“It all depends on how fast they heal, and how fast the bleeding clears up. If it clears earlier or healing is much faster, I have seen women resuming sexual activity earlier.”
“There may be a fear associated with sex after delivery, and also there hasn’t been tightening of the vaginal area yet, after stretching.”
“The postpartum period generally is 6 weeks, after which it is believed that the body would have gone back to the pre-pregnancy stage.”
- When you are breastfeeding, you don’t get pregnant.
“This is only partially true, and it depends on the individual, and how much breastfeeding is actually being done. If it’s exclusive breastfeeding, that has a better contraceptive effect, but even then, it is not definite.”
“Breastfeeding may have a contraceptive effect because it suppresses the eggs from growing, hence it will affect ovulation. But this is unpredictable and unreliable.”
“Some mums think that, “I’m breastfeeding, my menses has not come back, so I can not get pregnant.” So they don’t do birth control.”
“But this is dangerous, because you never know when your eggs start growing back. Your menses may not have come, but when your eggs start growing back, you ovulate.”
“If you don’t get pregnant then, your menses will come, but what if, after the first ovulation you get pregnant? (Your menses have had no time to return!). We have seen such cases too.”
Thank you, Dr. Watt for taking the time out to clarify our little doubts and fears, and for deconstructing some very common myths about bringing a little human into the world!