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Old Wives' Tales and Pregnancy: Any Truth to Them?

Katlyn Joy |24, June 2014


I remember when I was a little girl hearing my grandmother say, "There's a ring around the moon. Babies will be born tonight." When I got a little older I thought, "There are babies born EVERY night. What difference does a ring make?" This is how most old wives' tales get started. They can seem true on first glance because they are set up to be right at least half the time, it seems. Here are some and the very few that have some validity:

Wives' Tale #1: Carrying high? It's a girl. Carrying low? It's a boy.

Truth is, we tend to carry lower with each pregnancy as our muscles become more lax with each pregnancy. We tend to show sooner in subsequent pregnancies for the same reason.

Wives' Tale #2: Heartburn means a hairy baby.

Heartburn and indigestion are frequent symptoms of pregnancy, and a good amount of babies are born with a nice head of hair. However, there is absolutely no link between the two.

Wives' Tale #3: If the heart beats faster, it's a girl.

Not true, well not exactly. The myth is that if a fetal heartbeat is under 140 beats per minute, the baby is a boy. However, the fetal heart rates vary depending on the point of gestation, but boys and girls do not differ. After birth, though, girls' hearts do beat faster.

Wives' Tale #4: The way you carry a baby indicates gender.

Supposedly if you carry much of the weight outwards, such as around your hips it's a boy and if the weight is out front, it's a girl. Actually how you carry is mostly dependent on how you are built prior to pregnancy. And if the baby is lying transverse, it will affect how the weight is distributed.

Wives' Tale #5: If you move the wrong way, the umbilical cord can become wrapped around baby's neck.

It's been said if you raise your hands over your head, or roll out of bed the wrong way, this may occur. However, it's simply not true. Your movements in no way affect the umbilical cord placement.

Wives' Tale #6: You can start labor by drinking castor oil, eating spicy food, walking, or having sex.

While you may be exposed to prostaglandins from these, and possibly can get contractions started, it's doubtful anything much will happen from them.

Wives' Tale #7: Weather affects when women go into labor.

Hold on, there is some research to back this. According to a 2007 article in the Archives of Gynecology and Obstetrics, there is a correlation between low barometric pressure and the number of deliveries and rupture of membranes. This was true of both premature rupture of membranes and spontaneous water breaking. There was not, however, a connection between the lower barometric pressure and the start of labor. With a bigger drop in pressure, there are more cases of water breaking and births.

Wives' Tale #8: Babies are born more often on full moons.

According to R. Phillips Heine, M.D., chief of Duke Maternal-Fetal Medicine, this is a myth. "People have thought a full moon is responsible for many things — bad or good — through time. So when babies were born in a full moon, it naturally became the reason, rather than just the normal time." Studies have not shown any conclusive trends connecting the full moon to births.

Wives' Tale #9: Women give birth to all their children during the same phase of the moon.

Of course this one is tougher to prove unless you have a litter of kids. This one comes from the Old Farmer's Almanac. According to the theory, your children would be born when the moon was in the same time period of the lunar month, or in its moonmate. "During the lunar month (29.5 days), the moon's shape is different every day. The apparent shape of a waxing moon can be matched with a waning moon to appear as a perfect circle. The two shapes that match appear in the sky about two weeks apart. They might be called moonmates. The first and third quarters are mates; the full and new moons are likewise mates," says writer, Robert X. Perry. This has not been studied, but it could be fun to check out. I looked it up; none of my three were even close to being moonmates.

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brittay Jul 14, 2014 11:19:17 AM ET

I like salty, sour stuff, and I can't eat sweets, spicy, fatty, or greasy stuff. I just started having heart burn. I've been sick a lot day and night 5 to 13 weeks. I am 14 weeks today, and due Jan, 11 2015. I'm carrying low. I don't know the baby's heart rate. I've lost a lot of weight, but the dad is gaining.

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Mrs.elentz Jun 25, 2014 03:41:46 AM ET

According to several of these, I should've had a boy. I have a beautiful baby girl!

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