Parenting

Skynesher, Getty Images

Here's What The Experts Had To Say About These 5 Early Baby Old Wives' Tales

Don't worry about the full moon.

Separating pregnancy myths from reality can get confusing, because there's so much info to sift through. For instance, many of the old wives' tales about early babies certainly sound convincing. But before you give up all spicy foods for the next nine months, learn what experts have to say about these adages.

For the most part, it's difficult to say why some babies are born earlier than others. "Preterm labor and delivery appear to have multifactorial causes. No real single cause has been identified," Kecia Gaither, MD, Director of Perinatal Services at NYC Health + Hospitals/Lincoln, tells Romper in an email. For the most part, a baby is generally considered early if they are delivered prior to 37 weeks of gestation, according to Stanford Children's Health, and early delivery carries a risk of health concerns, including small size and body temperature regulation issues. Understandably, expectant parents want the pregnancy to last full term, and it's definitely worth discussing your own chances of an early delivery with your physician. But unless you're displaying the actual signs your baby is coming early, such as regular contractions or backaches, then set those concerns aside. Remember, too, that pregnant bodies tend to be pretty hardy. "Many women consider pregnancy a 'delicate' time. This is far from the case! Your body is a lean, mean, baby growing machine and is actually at its most efficient," as Nicole E. Williams, MD, of The Gynecology Institute of Chicago tells Romper. That said, there's still plenty of myths about what causes babies to arrive early that need to get debunked already.

1
Spicy Food Will Make You Go Into Labor Sooner
ArtistGNDphotography/E+/Getty Images

Should you avoid hot sauce or spicy curries during that final trimester? "I have myself heard this from more than one patient! While eating spicy foods may give you indigestion, which could feel like labor, there is very little truth to this," says Dr. Williams. Get that extra-hot burrito if it's what your heart desires.

2
Running Or Vigorous Exercise Can Cause Early Labor
FilippoBacci/E+/Getty Images

Worried about hanging up your running shoes the second you get a positive pregnancy test? "Exercise alone has not been proven to bring about labor. However, we do know that women who exercise regularly tend to enter spontaneous labor on time and tend to have a smoother labor course than those who live sedentary lifestyles," says Dr. Williams. Research also supports this idea, and in general, exercise does not increase the risk of preterm birth, according to a study of 2,059 pregnant people in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology. Discuss your pregnancy exercise goals with your physician to make sure it's all on the up and up, but you'll most likely be fine to keep on swimming, rowing, or whatever else you enjoy.

3
Drinking Coffee Can Bring On Early Labor
hxyume/E+/Getty Images

Caffeine consumption during pregnancy can be a quite the subject, as any pregnant coffee drinker knows. For the most part, caffeine itself is not causally related to babies coming early, Dr. Gaither says. Research-wise, there was no link between caffeine intake and preterm birth in a large analysis of several studies dating from 1966 to July 2010, according to findings in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. However, there's some evidence that consuming caffeine during pregnancy can lead to other potential issues, including an increased risk for childhood acute leukemia or lower birth rate, according to Romper. Talk it over with your doctor to get a sense of what amount of caffeine (if any) is recommended for your particular pregnancy.

4
The Full Moon Can Bring On Early Labor
Westend61/Westend61/Getty Images

Sure, it may seem like things get a little wilder when the moon is at its brightest. But that doesn't mean your baby is going to have an early debut. "It is quite the romantic and magical idea, delivering your baby on a full moon night. When I was working the labor wards, we used to think that full moons caused women's 'waters to break," says Dr. Williams. "However, when we looked at it more objectively, we found this is just not the case." If you like the idea of connecting your baby with the celestial realm, however, then consider the baby names inspired by space, such as Luna, from Romper.

5
Getting A Massage Can Induce Early Labor
zeljkosantrac/E+/Getty Images

Should you avoid those prenatal massages? A little Googling shows that some people claim an ankle or leg massage will bring about early labor, as noted in a blog by the Massage Therapist Development Center. "There are some midwives who do foot massages once a woman goes into labor, using a principle of acupressure. Unfortunately, we just don't have enough data," says Dr. Williams. For the most part, a prenatal massage can help reduce stress and relax muscles, as noted in Romper. If you have any doubts about whether prenatal massages are safe for your particular pregnancy, then discuss it with your doctor. But for the most part, a relaxing rubdown is not likely to cause early labor.

Experts:

Kecia Gaither, MD, MPH, FACOG, double board-certified in OB/GYN and Maternal Fetal Medicine, Director of Perinatal Services at NYC Health + Hospitals/Lincoln

Nicole E. Williams, MD, FACOG, FACS, The Gynecology Institute of Chicago

Studies:

American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, November 2016, Exercise during pregnancy in normal-weight women and risk of preterm birth: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials (core.ac.uk)

James, J. (2020) Maternal caffeine consumption and pregnancy outcomes: a narrative review with implications for advice to mothers and mothers-to-be, BMJ http://press.psprings.co.uk/ebm/august/ebm111432.pdf