Dispelling Old Wives Tales


I was recently interviewed for this Romper article on 7 Creepy Old Wives Tales About Pregnancy And Birth That Aren't True.  This blog post expands upon some of the things that I wrote about and responds to the Romper piece.

1.  Babies born in the spring don't get colds or flus in the first year.  

As Dr. O'Connell White, an OB-GYN and assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Boston University School of Medicine mentions in the Romper piece, I did not find any evidence to support this claim.


2.  Seeing a mouse when you're pregnant means the baby will have a hairy birthmark.

Again, as I mentioned in the piece there is no evidence to support this tale.  However, newborns can get black, raised moles that may be hairy called Congenital Melanocytic Nevus.  These moles are typically not a concern but may need to be protected from the sun and any change in moles should be reported to a dermatologist.

3.  More babies are born when there's a full moon.

Dr. Wendy McDonald says that this is "just a myth" but in reality it seems the studies are rather inconclusive on this issue.  

There have been studies that have shown a relation between the moon and birth.  In 1973, the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology published a study that showed a small effect that "births are above average before a full moon and below average after a full moon".  A 1988 study showed "a positive significant correlation of the onset of labor to the full moon when barometric pressure is not controlled".  A third study was conducted in 1998 showing that the mean day of delivery for multiparae (people who have had more than one pregnancy) was the first or second day after the full moon.

There were also two studies conducted in the US and Austria that did not show a correlation.

4.  Raising Your Arms Above Your Head Will Tangle the Umbilical Cord

Dr. Wendy McDonald mentions this to be a myth.  I agree with Dr. McDonald on this one, there is no connection between raising your arms and a tangled umbilical cord.  In fact, I'm not sure we know a lot about what positions a pregnant individual may be in that would affect the tangling or knotting of the umbilical cord.

5.  Your Labor will be Just Like Your Mom's

I agree with Dr. O'Connell White.  Labor experiences often vary widely and just because your mom (or your mom's mom) experienced something doesn't mean that's how your labor will go.  However, I would still recommend knowing as much as you can about births in your family since there may be a correlation.  The more you know about their births the better, even if your birth ends up being wildly different.


6.  Get a Child, Lose a Tooth

I would like to expand upon what Dr. O'Connell White answered to emphasize the importance of dental health during pregnancy.  Several studies that I looked at showed that nurses, OBGYNs, physicians, dentists and patients often overlook the importance of dental health during pregnancy.  This 2008 study suggests particularly that "appropriate dental care and prevention during pregnancy may reduce poor prenatal outcomes and decrease infant caries." In particular, "periodontal disease may be a risk factor for preterm low birthweight" and "also may have adverse long-term effects on the infant's development."  Of course, poor dental health may also be caused by poor nutrition so it's very important to take "prenatal vitamins and eat foods high in protein, calcium, phosphorus, and vitamins A, C, and D".

7.  Craving Certain Foods Results in Birthmarks Shaped Like The Food

I agree that this is an Old Wives Tale.

Romper also asked me about two Old Wives Tales that they did not report in this article.


1.  If you eat veggies while pregnant, the baby will like them.

To reveal the truth behind this Old Wives Tale, I pulled quotes from this study.  It began by saying that "The ability to perceive flavors begins in utero with the development and early functioning of the gustatory and olfactory systems. Because both amniotic fluid and breast milk contain molecules derived from the mother’s diet, learning about flavors in foods begins in the womb and during early infancy."

In other words, learning about flavors does begin in the womb.  In fact, "early likes and dislikes are influenced by these innate preferences".  However, vegetables are a little more complicated and depend on the bitter sensitive or insensitive alleles of the genotype TAS2R38.  "Adults with the bitter-sensitive alleles of TAS2R38 also rate foods such as brassica vegetables (watercress, mustard greens, turnip, broccoli) as more bitter compared to adults with the bitter-insensitive alleles."  This sensitivity may affect whether an individual likes or dislikes particular vegetables.  However, likes and dislikes are also modifiable.  "Repeated exposure to novel or disliked foods that occurs in a positive, supportive environment may promote the acceptance of and eventually a preference for those foods. Alternatively, children who are pressured to eat certain foods may show decreased preference for those foods later on. With increasing age, the influence of a number of factors, such as peers and food availability, continue to mold food preferences and eating behaviors."

2.  Birthing hips make labor easier.

Hip size doesn't have anything to do with how labor goes.  Hips are what we can see on the outside and they don't translate to size or width of the pelvis.  Even if we knew the size of one's pelvis this still does not translate to how easy or difficult labor will be.  Labor difficulty is partially determined by position of baby which has nothing to do with the size of the pelvis and definitely doesn't have anything to do with the hip size.

Resources I used while writing this article: