Thanks, but no thanks.
If there is one thing I learned during my pregnancy, it’s that people absolutely love giving you their unsolicited advice.
Being a person living in the 21st century, I am a frequent user of the internet and social media, so I got the full benefit of literally millions of opinions on what is okay for pregnant women and what is not. Did you know it’s taboo for a pregnant woman to reach for anything above her head? We also can’t dye our hair if we’re expecting. Seriously, these are the stupid kinds of things that people tried to make me believe.
Sifting through the bullshit was tough, but I learned pretty damn quick what to laugh at and what to worry about.
Don’t Put That In Your Mouth!
The biggest thing I always read about pregnancy was what you can and can’t eat. Although there are countless food items that are apparently a no-no, I’ll list a few that were memorable for me.
Soft cheeses: Pregnant women are told not to eat any type of soft cheese due to the risk of listeria. This freaked me out, because I love warm Brie and I wasn’t sure if I could say no for 9 whole months. Well, after some quick googling I learned that the number of listeria cases across Canada per year is under 200. And any outbreaks I could find information on had been from chicken or bagged salad. Call me a badass, but that didn’t seem like too much of a risk to me. I didn’t eat Brie everyday, but I did enjoy it a few times throughout my pregnancy. Never contracted listeria, either!
Deli meats: These are also a no-go for expecting moms for the same reason as soft cheeses; listeria. Again, the risk of listeria is pretty low in Canada, and I wasn’t going to let that low risk stop me from eating pepperoni pizza. I mean really, if I had gone 9 months without pizza I probably wouldn’t be here today.
Raw Eggs: I’m not in the habit of eating raw eggs, but I do enjoy hollandaise sauce, cake icing, and mayonnaise (which are all part of the raw egg category if you’re pregnant). The issue with raw eggs is the risk of contracting salmonella which, granted, is a little higher than the risk for listeria. However, I had made it 26 years without contracting salmonella, so I was willing to take the risk for another 9 months. And just so you know, usually salmonella bacteria only affects the mother – it VERY rarely causes issues for the baby.
Caffeine: While it is generally accepted that a pregnant woman can safely consume 200mg of caffeine a day (about 2-3 cups of coffee), I had quite a few people tell me that any caffeine at all is bad for the baby. I’m sorry, but if I don’t get my daily cup of tea in the morning I’m going to be biting somebodies head off. Add pregnancy to the mix and you can just call me Godzilla. I drank a cup of strong tea every single day throughout my pregnancy, and my baby came out absolutely fine.
Junk Food: Sooo many people told me junk food would harm my baby. That is such bull – what pregnant woman in history has EVER said no to junk food? I get that the baby probably isn’t going to get a whole lot of nutrition from junk, but it’s not like I wasn’t eating good food as well. I had the appetite of three grown men, which meant I was eating everything in sight. Fruits, veggies, and yes – some junk. I’m sorry, but if baby wants Doritos, baby’s gonna get some damn Doritos!
Don’t Enjoy Yourself Too Much!
Something I got from a lot of people was advice that was intended to make me feel guilty for feeling good.
I was constantly told not to take a hot bath. Or sit in a hot tub. Now I understand the risk here – if you let yourself overheat it can cause problems for the baby. However, I consider myself a smart woman, so I know when I am getting too hot. Never in my life have I sat in hot water and let myself overheat. The secret is to get out of the water before you cook yourself. It’s easy – you just stand up and get out. I took a hot bath nearly every day when I was pregnant, and I visited hot springs a few times as well. My baby is totally fine!
Massages are another thing that are “bad” for pregnant women. I don’t even know what the reasoning for this is, but I am assuming that if there was some kind of risk, a massage therapist would know about it and therefore not massage a pregnant lady. I had three massages during my pregnancy, and I was assured each time there is no risk. It’s not a sin to feel good when you’re pregnant, guys. Obviously, if your belly is the size of a planet you probably don’t want to be lying face-down while someone massages your back. There are other ways to receive a massage, and it’s perfectly safe for you and your baby.
Now I only got this one once, but I swear to god somebody had the audacity to tell me that if I watch horror movies while pregnant, my kid would grow up to be a psycho. Um, what?! I’m not even going to comment on this one. Please know Mamas, this is 100% NOT TRUE.
One guilt trap I almost fell for was that I wasn’t allowed to take any medication when I was sick. This is a very common belief. Many people and internet sources told me that some of the ingredients found in cold medications are harmful to the baby. Well, when I was pregnant there were a few occasions where I became extremely ill – like nose plugged solid, head feels like it’s about to explode, can’t speak kind of ill. After suffering sans medication through the first cold, I went to the pharmacist and my midwife, who both told me that OTC cold medication is safe to take, provided I’m following the directions on the package. I trusted their word and took the medication. Again, baby turned out fine. However, if you are expecting and become sick, it is wise to speak to a professional before taking any medications – I am smart, but there are a few individuals who know better than I about these sorts of things.
The Stuff I Actually Avoided
Although a lot of the things I was told to feel bad about were nonsense, there was also some stuff that was legit. I’m not saying lay a big guilt trip on yourself if you’ve done or plan on doing any of these things, none of us are perfect. These are just the things I chose to be more cautious about.
Stress: For me, this was a big one. My job can best be described as insane. I work in a therapeutic treatment center for very troubled young boys. Dealing with the awful effects of early childhood trauma is a daily part of my job. Violence is also a daily thing I deal with. Add gut-wrenching emotions into the mix and that’s basically my job in a nutshell. Luckily for me, I had been doing this job for quite a while by the time I became pregnant, so I was very talented at managing stress. That being said, though, there were still times when my heart would race and I could feel the stress hormones pumping through my body. When I felt it was becoming too much for me and my baby to safely handle, I made the decision to leave my job. Protecting your mental health should always be a priority, especially when you are sharing emotions, feelings, and hormones with a bun in the oven.
Alcohol & Drug Use: Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder is another thing that I work with daily. It can have some really awful effects on children, including poor coordination, lack of judgement, and physical deformities. Trust me guys, sobriety for 9 months is a very fair trade off for a healthy, happy child. The use of narcotics also has a heap of negative side effects for your baby, and in my humble opinion should definitely be avoided.
Marijuana: This subject was always up for debate when I was pregnant. Many people believe smoking weed during pregnancy will have negative effects for the baby later on in life, including developmental delays and attention issues. An equally large amount of people also believe that the side effects are minimal, if there even are any. In reality, there is not a lot of current or accurate research on the subject. While many pregnant women choose to use marijuana to help with morning sickness (among other things), I decided to steer clear for the duration of my pregnancy, simply for the fact that I am a huge worry-wart. I’m okay with taking some risks, but not when I don’t know what the actual risk is.
Tattoos: I was told by my tattoo artist that getting inked while pregnant is a terrible idea. And it’s not just because your skin is all stretched and wonky, either. The reason behind this is that when you get a tattoo, you are causing trauma to multiple layers of skin. Your body works hard afterwards to fight off infection and heal. When you are cooking up a human, your body is diverting the majority of it’s nutrients, energy, and magical health powers to the baby. So, if you were to get a tattoo at that time, you would be at a major risk for infection, which would result in a shitty tattoo and a bad time for you, Mama. I am all for the tattooed mom, but for the love of god, don’t get inked while pregnant!
Everyone’s pregnancy is different, and every mom out there knows what’s best for themselves and the baby. Personally, I took most of the stupid “advice” I was given with a grain of salt. If there were things I was unsure about, I asked a healthcare professional. Otherwise, I trusted my gut. Generally, I can tell what’s bad for my body and what’s not. So my advice for all you Mamas – listen to your body. If your gut tells you something is wrong, then don’t do it. If you’re unsure of something, get a professional opinion. Don’t listen to the weirdo who says that you must stand naked in the moonlight once a month to prevent your baby from having webbed toes.