8 Pregnancy 'Rules' You Can Break

When it comes to pregnancy advice, it seems like everyone has an opinion. But what's the truth? What "rules" can you break? Here we separate fact from fiction.

Pregnant person holding their pregnant belly
Photo: Getty Images

When you're pregnant, it's common to get inundated with rules. Everyone from your friends and neighbors to strangers on the street will likely offer their opinions on what is and is not safe during pregnancy. Usually, this advice is well-intended. However, some it is just plain wrong.

Your doctor or midwife is the best source of information on any lifestyle changes you should or should not make for a healthy pregnancy. But there are some 'prohibitions' people often share that aren't required for most pregnant people. Barring other specific guidance from your medical provider, here are 8 pregnancy 'rules' you can safely break.

01 of 08

Misconception: Stress During Pregnancy is Bad.

Pregnant person with their hand on their forehead

While exceptional levels of stress can be detrimental, research shows that moderate stress is actually good for the fetus. "Regular stress during pregnancy, such as work deadlines, probably don't add to pregnancy problems," an article from March of Dimes states. In fact, it can actually tone the fetus's nervous system and accelerate development. What's more, according to the one study, those who experienced moderate stress during pregnancy have 2-week-old infants with brains that work at a faster speed than infants of mothers without the same stress, and 2-year-old toddlers with higher motor and mental development scores.

That said, experiencing extreme stress or duress can cause health problems, like high blood pressure. It can also lower your immune system, increasing the chance of getting an infection in your uterus. For this reason, you should try and be as mindful as possible—mitigating high stress events and activities whenever you can.

02 of 08

Misconception: Pregnant People Shouldn't Eat Sweets.

Hot-Chocolate Cookies
Jennifer Causey

Pregnant people should be mindful of what they eat; however, shunning an entire food group isn't necessary—unless your doctor says so. What's more, some sweets (yes, sweets!) provide health benefits, i.e. eating chocolate every day can be good for you. According to a August 2010 study, ingesting the sugary substance can decrease your risk for preeclampsia and gestational hypertension.

03 of 08

Misconception: Pregnant People Should Avoid Exercise.

Doula working with pregnant woman, rebozo sifting
Getty Images

Numerous studies have shown the health benefits of exercise, i.e. exercising during pregnancy boosts your mood and increases the quality of your sleep. It lowers your risk of gestational diabetes and other pregnancy complications, and it can actually reduce back pain and strain. Exercise during pregnancy is a good thing.

But did you know that when you exercise baby gets a workout, too? According to research, the heart rates of the fetuses of pregnant people who are physically active are slower and more variable, both signs of cardiovascular health. The babies of exercisers have lower birth weights and may even become more intelligent adults because of their bigger brains.

04 of 08

Misconception: Pregnant People Shouldn't Eat Seafood.


Eating fish high in omega-3 fatty acids and low in mercury during pregnancy may produce smarter kids. Children whose parents ate at least twelve ounces of seafood a week during pregnancy had higher verbal IQ, better social and communication skills, and superior motor skills, according to an October 2019 study. Another study found they also had a better metabolic profile, thanks—in large part—to seafood.

05 of 08

Misconception: You Can't Drink Caffeine While Pregnant.

two women talking over coffee

In the past, pregnant people were advised to avoid caffeine—in soda, coffee, tea, and chocolate—but recent studies show that moderate amounts are safe. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), pregnant people can safely consume up to 200 milligrams of caffeine a day, or one 12-ounce cup of coffee.

06 of 08

Misconception: Laying on Your Back While Pregnant Is Dangerous.

woman lying on back while pregnant

While most doctors and experts recommend side sleeping during pregnancy, some pregnant people can (and do) sleep on their back. It is a matter of comfort. It also poses minimal risk, especially in the first trimester. That said, the ACOG still recommends pregnant people sleep on their side.

"As your belly grows, sleeping on your back may not be good for you," the ACOG writes. "It puts the weight of your uterus on your spine and back muscles. In the second and third trimesters, lying on your back may compress a major blood vessel that takes blood to your uterus, making you feel dizzy and possibly reducing blood flow to your fetus. Sleeping on your side during your second and third trimesters may be best."

07 of 08

Misconception: Eating Pepperoni Pizza During Pregnancy Can Harm the Fetus.

Pizza Hut
Pizza Hut

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), deli and luncheon meats should be avoided during pregnancy. This is due to possible contamination and their high nitrate concentration. However, these foods can be consumed—in moderation—if they are properly prepared and heated. The ACOG advises heating deli meats to 165 degrees F or higher right before eating. This means pepperoni pizza, for example, is a safe bet.

08 of 08

Misconception: You Cannot Have Sex While Pregnant.

Feet of couple in bed

Unless your doctor or midwife advises against it, sex during pregnancy is safe—if you want it. Several studies have found that that vaginal sex during pregnancy does not increase your risk of preterm labor or premature birth. Your baby is also highly protected by amniotic fluid and your uterus. That said, if you have specific concerns, you can and should speak with your doctor.

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