The Pregnant Athlete

Learning To Embrace My Changing Pregnant Body While Swimming, Biking, Running & Practicing Yoga


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5 Chinese pregnancy myths debunked.

Week 13 | +8 lbs

The most frustrating things I’ve had to deal with during my pregnancy so far are the constant old Chinese pregnancy myths my parents and in-laws impose on me every single week. I thought that it was bad enough that my husband and I had to select a wedding date based on what they deemed was a “lucky” date, but that was not even a preview of how Chinese superstitions can overwhelm one’s daily existence.

I won’t even bother to argue the benefits of exercise during pregnancy, despite some of our family members’ beliefs, but here are 5 Chinese pregnancy myths and the truth.  Are there any myths in your culture that you have had to disagree with during your pregnancy? Note: I don’t necessarily eat all the foods I write about below, but I thought it was important to get the facts posted anyway.

Myth #1. Eating bananas will cause miscarriage and asthma.

Fact #1. During pregnancy, eating foods high in potassium, such as bananas, can help reduce pregnancy-related swelling of the extremities. It’s believed that leg cramps, one of the most unpleasant symptoms of pregnancy, might be relieved by increasing the intake of potassium-rich foods. In addition, vitamin B6, found in bananas, has been shown to help relieve morning sickness. They also balance electrolytes, are a great source of energy, and are a significant source of vitamins A, C, pectin (a soluble fiber) and manganese. Source.

Myth #2. Eating lamb will cause your baby to suffer from epilepsy.  In Southern China, pregnant women were told not to eat lamb because of an old Cantonese saying: “Faat yeung deu.” Faat means “to break out in acne or measles.” Yeung is the Cantonese word for lamb. Deu means “craziness” or “having seizures.”

Fact #2. Along with other animal foods, lamb is one of the best sources of iron.  Pregnant women require more iron, as it is found in your blood and is responsible for carrying and delivering oxygen to every cell in your body. Pregnant women have an expanded blood volume, so it makes sense that more blood requires more iron. Additionally, you have to supply oxygen to both your cells and the cells of your growing baby. Once again, this greater demand for oxygen requires greater amounts of iron.  Just remember to cook beef, veal, and lamb steaks and roasts to 145°F, pork to 160°F, and all ground meats to 160° F. Non-animal foods such as enriched breads and cereals, beans, dried fruits, seeds, nuts, broccoli, spinach, collard greens, barley, chickpeas and blackstrap molasses are also sources of iron, though they will not provide as much iron as animal foods. Source.

Myth #3. Eating seafood will cause your baby to suffer from rashes and other skin problems.

Fact #3. Seafood is a great source of protein, iron and zinc, crucial nutrients for your baby’s growth and development. In addition, the omega-3 fatty acids in many fish can promote your baby’s brain development, especially important to eat during your third trimester.  Avoid some types of seafood, particularly large, predatory fish such as shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish that contain high levels of mercury. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) state pregnant women can safely eat up to 12 ounces (340 grams) of seafood a week, or two servings per week.  Not all researchers agree with these limits, however, citing a study that noted no negative effects for women who ate more seafood than the FDA-approved guidelines. Source

Myth #4. It is unhealthy to ingest cold food or drinks or any fruits that would have a “cooling” effect on the body, including pineapples, watermelon, lychees and mangoes. Chinese food therapy is a modality of traditional Chinese medicine. Central to this belief system is the idea that certain foods have a “hot” or heat-inducing quality while others have a “cold” or chilling effect on the body and its organs and fluids. An imbalance of this “heat” and “cold” is said to increase susceptibility to sickness or to directly cause disease itself. Such an imbalance is not necessarily related to the subjective feeling of being hot (tending toward sweating) or cold (tending toward shivering).  Some Chinese view pregnancy as a “heating” condition, and, thus, “cooling” foods should be avoided.

Fact #4. Packed with essential nutrients and full of fiber, fruits are an important part of any healthy diet, and should appear in abundance in your kitchen when you’re pregnant.  Key vitamins supplied by fruits include beta carotene, needed for your baby’s cell and tissue development, vision, and immune system; vitamin C, crucial for your baby’s bones and teeth, as well as the collagen in your baby’s connective tissue; potassium, which helps control blood pressure; and folic acid, which helps prevent neural tube defects and promotes a healthy birth weight.  The fiber content also provides a number of benefits, including keeping your bowels moving. This helps prevent constipation and hemorrhoids, two common problems during pregnancy. Source

Myth #5.  Raising your arms overhead will cause your baby’s umbilical cord to get wrapped around his or her neck.

Fact #5:  Your movements have absolutely no effect on the umbilical cord. It is pretty common for the cord to be around your baby’s neck when the baby is born, and it is not necessarily anything to worry about.  In fact, your OB will be able to unwrap it from baby’s neck in just a few maneuvers, if need be, so it’s definitely not the life-threatening situation it’s been made out to be. Source

Other Chinese myths that exist:

  • Ingesting dark liquids, ie. soy sauce, chocolate, cola, coffee, tea will make baby dark
  • Eating papaya can cause jaundice and a difficult labor
  • Using scissors will cause baby to have hare lip
  • Moving will cause miscarriage
  • Hammering will cause baby to have pockmarks or spots
  • Going to a funeral is bad luck and can cause miscarriage
  • Holding someone else’s baby will make your baby jealous and angry when he or she grows up
  • Going out after dark conjures bad spirits
  • Visiting temples is bad luck, as is when you’re menstrating
  • Seeing ugly or frightening things may “mark” the baby
  • Bathing during the first month post-partum is dangerous and should be avoided

Week 12 (1/12-18) training: 15 miles

Sunday: 5 miles
Monday: Spin
Tuesday: 3 miles, yoga
Wednesday:  Rest
Thursday: Rest
Friday: Rest
Saturday: 7 miles