Is there anything more miraculous than a pregnancy? What a wonder it is to see how a woman’s body develops to nurture its growing baby, nestled in the comfort of her womb. Religious scriptures highlight the respect and honor mothers deserve from their children, often citing references to the nine months that the baby is entirely dependent upon God’s decree in their mother’s body.

Societal norms guiding an expectant mother vary from culture to culture. Because optimizing nutrition is critical at this time, cultural myths regarding food in pregnancy, abound. An extreme case is of Nigerian women, as highlighted in a study by the Imo State University, who avoid bush meat, for fear that they will have deformed babies that look like animals. They also think that eating snails can make the baby sluggish. Japanese women are told that spicy food can give the baby a short temper. In the United States, birthmarks are attributed to a mother’s craving for strawberries or chili peppers. In Mexico, according to an old belief, eating eggs can make the baby smell bad. On the other hand, in the Philippines, women are told to eat raw egg just before the delivery, to help lubricate the birth canal. A BBC article mentions that it is widely believed in Africa that eating eggs during pregnancy causes sterility.

There’s also a universal abundance of pregnancy-specific recipes, passed down from generation to generation. Many contain nutrient-rich mixtures of clarified butter, nuts, seeds, honey, and oats. The media, be it in sitcoms, movies, or commercials stereotype a pregnant woman as someone who is always having incredibly unhealthy cravings and giving into them! Consuming mixed media signals on just how to attain a healthy diet is also cause for concern. Don’t women have a green light on what they want to eat once they’re pregnant? If you have ever seen a family comedy or an episode of Friends, you’d think so! So, let’s clear up some myths about pregnancy!


Pregnancy Myth

Exercising during pregnancy can lead to a miscarriage.


Pregnancy Truth

The American Pregnancy Association determines that exercising alone does not lead to miscarriages. There are many reasons why miscarriages occur, the highest percentage of which are said to be caused by chromosomal abnormalities. As long as there are no high risk activities or high impact sports involved that may cause damage to a woman’s body while she’s expecting, anything goes. Dancing, jogging, swimming, and even canoeing! Thirty minutes a day of exercise 4-5 times a week is ideal.

Studies have shown that exercising increases a person’s energy level and uplifts their mood. The American Pregnancy Association recommends that pregnant women should continue their pre-pregnancy fitness regimen, as long as their OB-GYN has no objections. Unless contraindicated, exercise is even a great preventative tool to reduce backaches, which many pregnant women complain of getting as their baby becomes heavier and the weight load causes an imbalance on the muscles in the surrounding areas.

A healthy woman’s body is a capable powerhouse. Just look at DeAnne Hemmens, an American Olympian, who competed in the 1996 Olympics when she was two months pregnant. Canoeing while pregnant is one thing, competitive canoeing for the United States Olympic team is quite another! More recently, R&B singer Ciara hired a personal trainer to help her remain physically active before she delivered her baby. Her Instagram followers got to follow her pregnancy journey and fitness journey at the same time! At the other end of the spectrum is United Kingdom royal, Kate Middleton who suffers from severe hyperemesis gravidarum and advocates for more serious care to the small percentage of pregnant women who require medication and more medical attention during pregnancy.


Pregnancy Myth

A pregnant woman eats for two!


Pregnancy Truth

Pregnant women do not have to consume double the amount of calories they normally eat. Unless an OB-GYN specifically recommends more (healthy) calories, eating for two or doubling the calories isn’t practical. Just a solid 300 extra calories is plenty. Prenatal vitamins are highly recommended by most OB-GYNs.

An extra protein-rich sandwich or a few healthy snacks are more than enough to supplement the development of an unborn child. What you eat is more important than how much you eat. Daniel Silas Adamson of advises pregnant women to eat at least five portions of fruits and veggies, along with protein and calcium-rich foods. He thinks it is a good idea to stay away from fish that are at the very top of the food chain, such as shark and swordfish, and mold-ripened cheeses like Brie and Camembert, as well as soft blue cheeses like Gorgonzola and Roquefort. According to Adamson, the pregnancy menu should also exclude raw eggs, raw meat, raw shellfish, and all types of pate. Foods that cause acid reflux are best avoided late in the pregnancy. The bad news is that chocolate is also on this list of reflux-causing food, along with fried foods, sodas, caffeine, and high-fat meats.


Exercise All Raw Meats & Raw Eggs
Vegetables Blue and Mold-Ripened Cheese
Fruits Excessive Caffeine
Protein Excessive Sugar
Calcium High-Impact Sports
300 extra calories


Pregnancy Myth

Pregnancy is not an illness so why go for so many checkups.


Pregnancy Truth

Having access to a medical professional on a regular basis is a big blessing. Pregnant women must not miss their prenatal appointments to ensure proper development of the fetus, along with monitoring any health issues that may arise. A high percentage of women develop gestational diabetes and one of the many things an OB-GYN would watch out for is a woman’s sugar levels! Those glucose tests with the flat orange soda tasting liquid aren’t exactly a trip to the amusement park, but they are a highly effective method of determining how women can adjust their diet or exercise routine for a healthier delivery. The baby’s arrival should not be an excuse to miss the postnatal checkups either.

The focus is largely on a mother-to-be’s physical wellbeing, as compared to her emotional and spiritual health. Having restful moments of prayer, reflection, and meditation can help in clearing up thoughts, finding solutions to conflicts, and releasing inner stress. The value of the partner’s and the family’s support cannot be underestimated. Finding a personal counselor or therapist is a great way to help adjust to the new upcoming adventure of motherhood. Whatever the situation may be, resources are available almost anywhere—from sage advice to new techniques.

A pregnant woman deserves to be fabulously fit and fabulously pregnant! Here’s to all the moms-to-be who are on the road to keeping up with their exercise, diet, and overall health goals during their pregnancies

Afshan Malik is currently working for Rabata and is also a student in a Masters of Nonprofit Management Program. She is a certified social media & community specialist. She organizes a conference every year, celebrating the rise of Muslim women’s voices in literature. Born in Chicago, raised in Atlanta, she is now a happy Houstonian.