I gave up my Dr. Pepper, Diet Coke, and iced cappuccinos, replacing my favorite drinks with caffeine- and aspartame-free fruit juices, seltzer, ginger ale, 7-Up, or Sprite.
A Chinese doctor I visited in Manhattan informed me that women in his country believed that eating shrimp during pregnancy would cause birth defects. But go ahead and eat shrimp, he said. It was only an old wives' tale, unsupported by research. Still, I pondered the origin of such a strong cultural objection to any food and wondered if there might be something to it as I guiltily gobbled a plate full of what had become my strongest food craving—shrimp fajitas—two or three times a week throughout the entire 42 weeks of my pregnancy.
My rosy cheeks notwithstanding, the low-lying bump in my belly was, indeed, a baby boy. And despite his early exposure to caffeine, aspartame, sugar, computers, and what must've been several tons of shrimp, he turned out just fine.
Now, at age 41, I'm pregnant again and am dealing with a new set of age-related concerns. When I think back to all of the "helpful" advice and well-intentioned misinformation I received throughout my first pregnancy, I know I've come a long way. I'm no longer the naïve mom-to-be willing to believe anything simply because I knew nothing. I am proficient at sifting through the myths in dogged pursuit of truth.
Here's what I've learned about some of the more popular pregnancy myths, old wives' tales, and general erroneous assumptions:
The Shape of Your Stomach
Experts agree that you can't determine the sex of your baby simply by looking at the shape of your tummy. The width or roundness of a pregnant woman's belly varies because of her muscle tone and the position of the fetus. If you're in a hurry to find out whether you're toting a girl or a boy, consider an ultrasound. But don't go out and buy your infant a pale pink wardrobe on the basis of the results. Accuracy is not 100 percent guaranteed!