When a woman finds out she is expecting, it seems everyone she knows becomes a pregnancy and parenting expert: “Don’t eat this. You have to give birth this way.” With information available from friends, families, the internet, books, neighbors, and strangers at the park…how do patients know what to believe? And how can we as medical professionals help them sort it all out, and prevent them from heeding bad advice that has no factual basis?
As an obstetrician, part of my job is combating myths and quickly earning the trust of women I just met in a 15- or 30-minute appointment or during a quick visit to Labor and Delivery triage. How do I present myself as the expert, when I am up against the 24/7 churn of the internet and social media advice?
Pregnancy and being a new parent is a time of vulnerability. Consider:
- In a study conducted at the Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women, almost 10% of pregnant women were hesitant to get a flu shot or any vaccines for their babies, despite the proven benefits of immunization.
- A 2016 survey in Midwifery found that few women were worried about gaining excessive weight during pregnancy, supporting the widespread myth that pregnancy meant Mom was “eating for two,” despite the risk of gestational diabetes.
- Despite the well-known benefits of consuming fish while pregnant, studies show that many expectant moms avoid fish entirely out of concern over contamination, instead of switching to safer kinds of fish and eating the recommended servings per week.
This is just a sampling of the ways bad information—or even superstition—can affect pregnancy. How as a doctor, and fellow mom, can I help my patients know exactly where to go in those moments when they are wondering if the article saying you absolutely can’t drink coffee while pregnant or breastfeeding might actually be true? How can I make it easier for doctors and midwives to get the best evidence-based advice into their patients’ hands?
This is where patient education comes in. Even though most moms do search out information on the Internet, they also want credible information from their doctors and healthcare providers. The patient education available through Bundoo and The Wellness Network is reviewed by practicing medical professionals, evidence-based, and conforms to the most recent guidelines—exactly the kind of information that can help combat pregnancy myths.
- Cunningham RM, Minard CG, Guffey D, Swaim LS, Opel DJ, Boom JA. Prevalence of Vaccine Hesitancy Among Expectant Mothers in Houston, Texas. Acad Pediatr. 2017 Aug 4.
- Whitaker KM, Wilcox S, Liu J, Blair SN, Pate RR. African American and White women׳s perceptions of weight gain, physical activity, and nutrition during pregnancy. Midwifery. 2016 Mar;34:211-220.
- Connelly NA, Lauber TB, Niederdeppe J, Knuth BA. How can more women of childbearing age be encouraged to follow fish consumption recommendations? Environ Res. 2014 Nov;135:88-94.
- Sheinis M, Carpe N, Gold S, Selk A. Ignorance is bliss: women’s knowledge regarding age-related pregnancy risks. J Obstet Gynaecol. 2017 Oct 12:1-8.