The 5 most common misconceptions about pregnancy

a pregnant woman and her friend hold hands and smile after a yoga class


In this article:

  • There are a lot of myths about pregnancy — knowing the facts can help support your and your baby’s health.

  • Some common misconceptions include the idea that exercise and any vaccinations are dangerous.

  • The clinicians at Swedish can answer questions and provide up-to-date, evidence-based guidance.

Throughout history, women have been advised about what they should and shouldn’t do when they become pregnant. Well-meaning friends and relatives offer truisms that they were told. Even now, pregnant women hear that raising their hands over their heads might cause the umbilical cord to wrap around the baby's neck — which is a myth.

As an expectant mother, you need to learn what truly is and isn’t safe for you and your developing baby, based on the best available medical evidence. With all of the frequently poor advice and even misleading material about pregnancy found online and in popular books, it's important that you ask questions and listen to your OB-GYN, your primary care physician or other trusted, medically-trained experts you may have on your care team, such as a certified nurse midwife.

Here are five common misconceptions about pregnancy:

1. Don't get vaccinated while you're pregnant.

Centers for Disease Control guidelines generally recommend certain vaccines, like Tdap and inactivated flu vaccine, for use in pregnant women. In fact, many vaccinations you get while pregnant help protect your baby until he or she can be vaccinated after being born. Other "live vaccines" for human papillomavirus (HPV) and measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) are not generally given to women known to be pregnant. It's very important that you speak with your doctors about which vaccines you should receive to safeguard your health and the health of your baby from serious diseases like COVID, hepatitis A, hepatitis B and influenza.

2. Expectant mothers don't have to worry about drinking alcohol during pregnancy, as long as they drink in moderation.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that pregnant women avoid alcohol completely. Aside from potentially measuring low on the growth curve for height and weight, babies who have mothers who abuse alcohol during pregnancy are at risk of damage in their speech, learning and neurological development, or any other number of extremely serious conditions on the spectrum of fetal alcohol disorders.

3. Exercise during pregnancy will send you into premature labor.

You may have heard that exercise during pregnancy could harm your baby or cause premature birth. However, regular daily exercise can help you manage the common discomforts of pregnancy and increase your chances of having a vaginal delivery free of complications. Exercise can also aid in postpartum recovery.

4. You can't eat any fish and cheese until after the baby is born.

Many pregnant women have been told that they should avoid fish and cheese altogether, but there are some safe options. Salmon and other fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids like DHA help your baby’s mental and visual development. Avoid larger fish that tend to be higher in mercury, like swordfish, shark, king mackerel and tuna steaks. Cheese is a terrific source of calcium, and hard cheeses like cheddar, Gouda and Parmesan are generally considered safe for pregnant women to eat. It’s best to avoid soft cheeses like Gorgonzola, Brie and goat cheese because they are more likely to contain listeria, a type of germ. If you become infected with listeria while pregnant, your baby could become infected as well, and you could be at increased risk of miscarriage or premature delivery.

5. When you're pregnant, you need to eat for two.

Carrying a baby does not require you to double your caloric intake. There are certain nutrients you need more of, like folic acid, but overeating isn't good for either of you. Gaining too much weight while pregnant puts you at increased risk of gestational diabetes and high blood pressure. You may also have a larger baby and thus be more likely to need a C-section.

Knowing the truth about these misconceptions can help protect your health during pregnancy, as well as that of your baby.

Find a doctor

If you have questions about pregnancy, contact Pregnancy & Childbirth services at Swedish. We can accommodate both in-person and virtual visits.

Whether you require an in-person visit or want to consult a doctor virtually, you have options. Swedish Virtual Care connects you face-to-face with a nurse practitioner who can review your symptoms, provide instruction and follow up as needed. If you need to find a doctor, you can use our provider directory.

Join our Patient and Family Advisory Council.

Additional resources 

Ask a midwife: What pregnant women should know about CMV

If you could become pregnant, take prenatal vitamins

What we can learn from Serena Williams' complicated birth

For quick pregnancy and parenting answers, ongoing education, a handy symptom checker and more, download the Circle by Swedish app.

Explore classes on childbirth and parenting at Swedish, including our group prenatal care program, CenteringPregnancy.

This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional's instructions.

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About the Author

There's a reason why more babies are born at Swedish every year than any other health system in western Washington - bringing babies into this world is our mission. The Swedish Pregnancy & Childbirth Team is committed to giving you relevant and actionable insights on how to care for yourself and your child as you navigate the trimesters of your pregnancy.

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