Thanks to modern medicine, expectant moms can find out a lot about their child long before the due date arrives: the gender, size, features, and certain potential health issues. But the things a parent really wants to know — will my child be smart? kind? athletic? — seem destined to remain a mystery until years later. Or are they? Research is increasingly finding that a child's personality forms in the womb, and that there are certain factors that happen during pregnancy that can determine your child's moods, intelligence, and more.
On the other hand, there are also a lot of bogus theories out there, too. Across the centuries, pregnant women have been told all kinds of stories about how to determine their baby's gender, what foods to avoid (strawberries were once thought to cause red birthmarks, according to Care.com), and natural phenomena they should fear (it was said that going outside during a solar eclipse would give the unborn child facial defects, reported USA Today). And forget about rubbing your bump during those nine months, even to feel the kicks. Brittanica.com explained that an old wives' tale from China held that excessive belly rubbing would make the child spoiled. (If that were really the case, then Duchess Meghan's baby would be primed to be more spoiled than milk left in a closed car in July.)
We've sorted through some of the myths and facts about pregnancy phenomena and their relation to a child's personality. Some you may have suspected; others might just surprise you.
1. True: Going Through Extreme Stress Can Make Your Baby Fussy
Sadly, your own personal misfortune may have an adverse effect on your baby as well. "Everyday stress is good for the fetus," says Jena Pincott, author of Do Chocolate Lovers Have Sweeter Babies? The Surprising Science of Pregnancy. "But when pregnant women are under extreme chronic duress — that is, domestic abuse, the death of a loved one, suffering constant cruelty from others, going through a divorce or separation — their levels of the stress hormone cortisol are dangerously high. This might show up in the baby as an unusually high level of anxiety and irritability. He or she might be more high-strung, depressed, and clingy than other babies, and have more sleeping and feeding problems."
2. False: Your Mood During Labor Determines Your Baby's Mood
As BabyGaga reported, superstitious folks used to believe that a baby would take on the mood its mother had at the precise moment of birth. Good thing we don't believe that anymore; can you imagine being in the middle of the final push and trying to remember to force a grin and say through gritted teeth, "I'm happy, I'm happy, dammit!"?
3. True: Indulging In Junk Food May Increase ADHD Risk
You know that eating right during pregnancy is good for your physical health and your baby's. Now there's evidence that bad eating habits may be linked to your child's brain development as well. "Recent studies have found a connection between a high omega-6:omega-3 ratio during pregnancy and ADHD in children," says Pincott. "Of course, ADHD in itself isn't a personality, but it may affect personality traits like conscientiousness." She goes on to explain that omega-6 fatty acids, which are pro-inflammatory, are found in foods like potato chips and tortilla chips.
4. True: Drinking Soda May Affect Your Child's Intelligence
You might want to put down the can of Coke along with that bag of chips. A study recently published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that pregnant women who consumed large quantities of sugar, particularly in sweetened drinks like soda, had children with lower cognitive and verbal abilities than women who ate fruit while pregnant.
5. False: Weather Extremes At Birth Affect Your Child's Personality
BabyGaga also reported the old wives' tale that giving birth during a weather event like a thunderstorm or blizzard will result in a baby with a temperament to match that weather. If that were true, we'd have a lot of tearful children who resulted from rainy days. And what about kids born during that weird winter phenomenon known as thundersnow?
6. True (Possibly): Giving Birth In Warm Weather May Result In A Happier Child
File this under the Bizarre But Maybe True: The Atlantic reported that a professor in Budapest surveyed more than 600 students about their general moods, taking note of their birth dates. She found that the people who had the most positive outlooks were more likely to be born in the spring or summer. Summer-born people were most likely to have mood swings, while students born in the fall were less likely to be irritable. Winter babies were most apt to be depressed, but they were also the most — yep — chill. Of course, this is far from the last word on the subject, but if you're hoping for a baby with a sunny disposition, try timing your conception for a birth in a sun-filled season.