Health Matters: 10 most common pregnancy myths

By Dr. Alta DeRoo


When it comes to pregnancy, everything from web articles to books, to relatives and strangers have advice for mom on the do’s and don’ts. Some of the advice may be pretty sound, but some of it is nonsense.

With all the pregnancy “advice” out there, it’s hard to know what – or whom – to believe.  Dr. Alta DeRoo  of UVA Obstetrics and Gynecology, a department of Novant Health UVA Health System Culpeper Medical Center gives us her take on 10 of the most popular pregnancy myths.

1. Skip the coffee. “One 12-ounce cup of coffee a day is perfectly fine,” DeRoo said. “Caffeine in moderation has never been shown to be dangerous in pregnancy, just don’t drink the whole pot!  Generally try to limit your intake to 200 mg of caffeine a day, for example, a Grande coffee or two 20 ounce servings of diet soda. On average, an 8 ounce cup of green tea has only 35 mg and is a winner,” says DeRoo.

2. You can’t color your hair while you’re pregnant. “Hair dyes and perms and things like that are completely fine, though we usually tell people to wait until after the first trimester,” DeRoo said. “The skin absorption of chemicals in hair dye is minimal, but make sure the space is well ventilated so you aren’t breathing in the fumes.”


3. Manicures are out. “Manicures and pedicures are no problem during pregnancy,” DeRoo said. “In any case, make sure you’re in a well ventilated space to avoid breathing in fumes.”

4. It’s okay to have a drink. “No amount of alcohol use is safe during pregnancy,” DeRoo said. “The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends no alcohol during pregnancy.   Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder is the leading preventable cause of birth defects and developmental disabilities.  There is no proven safe amount!”

5. You can’t fly during your first or third trimester. “This is simply not true,” DeRoo said. “If you have a low-risk, healthy pregnancy, there is no reason why you shouldn’t be able to fly before 36 weeks. However, always discuss your travel plans with your doctor before booking a flight.  The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists discourages flying after 36 weeks.”

6. Say no to fish. “Fish that have low levels of mercury, such as tilapia and salmon, are actually good for women during pregnancy,” DeRoo said. “Salmon is high in omega-3 fatty acids, which are good for both mother and baby.” DeRoo suggests skipping raw sushi and avoiding fish like mackerel, shark, tilefish and swordfish, bigeye Tuna all of which are high in mercury.  DeRoo says, “In general, 1 to 3 servings of fish a week is safe.”

7. No hot baths. “It’s fine to take baths as long as the water isn’t too hot,” DeRoo said. “Avoid saunas and whirlpool spas which can raise your body temperature over 102 degrees. A temperature that high could become dangerous for both you and your baby.”

8. Don’t lift your hands over your head. “A popular wives’ tale says that if a woman lifts her arms above her head while pregnant, the cord could get wrapped around the baby’s neck,” DeRoo said. “You won’t do any harm to your baby by lifting your arms.”

9. I’m eating for two! “On average, pregnant women only need about 300 extra calories a day,” DeRoo said.  “That equates to a bagel, turkey sandwich or extra serving of meat, fish- or —pasta.  Eat to your hunger, but follow your normal habits with maybe a little more snacking to get those extra calories in. Talk with your doctor if you feel you have a diminished or supercharged appetite.”




10.  You cannot exercise during pregnancy.

“Not true! We actually recommend exercise during pregnancy for 30 minutes a day, 5 to 7 days a week,” DeRoo said.  “Regular exercise has many benefits in pregnancy, including decreasing the chances of developing gestational diabetes or delivering by cesarean section.  There are some pregnancy complications where exercise is not recommended, and even healthy women may need to make some modifications so be sure to discuss your plans with your doctor,” says DeRoo. “We generally suggest brisk walking, elliptical machine, swimming or prenatal yoga.”

For an opportunity to learn more about UVA Obstetrics and Gynecology lead provider, Dr. Alta DeRoo and hear her on-stage conversation about women’s health with Pamper Me Pink founder Sharon Welch Clark, please plan to attend the 12th Annual Pamper Me Pink, presented by Pepperberries and Novant Health UVA Health System. Enjoy an evening of breast health awareness and indulgence for the Culpeper community on Tuesday, Oct. 24, from 5 to 8:45 p.m. at Germanna’s Daniel Technology Center, 18121 Technology Drive, Culpeper.  This event is free and open to the public. Visit to RSVP.