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The Top 7 Pregnancy Myths

Can you color your hair? Get a flu shot? Have sex? Experts clear up your biggest concerns.
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Myth: Caffeine Is a No-No

Do you love your morning cup of coffee? Many pregnant women do, but often they're warned to give up caffeine because it might cause miscarriage, preterm birth, or low birth weight.

But the case against caffeine isn't strong. "There does not appear to be any relationship between caffeine consumption and preterm birth," Chescheir says. Also, if a pregnant woman drinks less than 200 milligrams of caffeine per day -- the amount in about one 12-ounce cup of coffee -- there's no clear evidence she faces any increased risk of miscarriage or low birth weight. So be prudent, Chescheir says. Enjoy your java, but stay within the recommended limit per day.

Myth: Flying Can Increase Your Risk of Complications

Airport body scanners, X-ray machines at security, radiation from flying at high altitudes -- think about all that and pretty soon, a staycation sounds awfully tempting.

But don't worry about the small amounts of radiation that pregnant women might encounter while passing by or through an airport X-ray machine or flying at high altitudes, Chescheir says. "We get exposed to radiation all the time from being on the ground, and certainly flying increases that a bit. But the kind of radiation you're exposed to [during air travel] doesn't have much penetration into the body, so it's unlikely to ever cause fetal exposure at all."

Nor are body scanners dangerous. "It's a very minute amount of radiation, and it's extremely unlikely to cause any sort of fetal effects," Chescheir says. Research evaluated by the FDA, the National Institute for Standards and Technology, and the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory back up her views. But "because there's a completely safe alternative," she says, "I would recommend that [pregnant] women get the pat-down. If they don't want to do that, they should be reassured that going through the body scanner should be fine."  

If you're planning to fly in your last trimester, check with your airline about any restrictions. "Most airlines get a little anxious if you look like you might deliver en route," Chescheir says.

Some pregnant women should never fly without a medical clearance first. "Women who have coexisting lung or cardiac problems when they're pregnant might find they don't do well flying at 30,000 feet," Chescheir says. "They should ask their doctor before they get on a plane, but an otherwise normal, healthy woman should be able to fly very safely."

Myth: Keep Fish Off Your Plate

Eating two servings of fish per week can be healthy for mom and baby. Coldwater fish in particular contains lots of omega-3 fatty acids, which help with your baby's brain development and vision.

You should try to avoid fish high in mercury, such as swordfish, shark, tilefish, and king mackerel, Chescheir says. Salmon, shrimp, and canned light tuna are better choices.

Skip raw fish too, including sushi or sashimi, according to ACOG. Raw fish is more likely than cooked fish to contain parasites and bacteria. It's fine, however, to eat cooked sushi.

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