Traditional Hispanic beliefs and myths about pregnancy

Traditional Hispanic beliefs and myths about pregnancy

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Are they just old wives' tales?

Hispanic moms-to-be often hear lots of pregnancy advice based on traditional beliefs. The advice has no basis in fact, but may be taken quite seriously by older members of the family. If you’re an expectant mom in a Hispanic family, this well-intentioned advice – added to all the normal worries about your baby – can be a source of anxiety.

At the same time, the old beliefs are a fascinating part of Hispanic cultural heritage. So if your abuelita, your elderly aunt, or your mom wants to share with you what worked for her, you can listen with love, especially once you know what's true and what's not.

Read on to get the facts and put your mind at ease.

Guessing game: The baby's sex

If your belly is pointy, the baby will be a boy, and if it spreads out to the sides, the baby will be a girl.

This is one of the most widespread myths, but it has no foundation. Before ultrasounds and amniocentesis existed, guessing the baby's sex was elevated to an art form, but belly shape actually has to do with the mother's build. If the mom is small and thin, her belly will look different than if she is bigger and taller.

If your face looks rounder, the baby will be a girl, and if you gain weight on your rear end, the baby will be a boy.

Where a pregnant woman carries her extra weight has to do with her own body type, not with the sex of her baby. If a woman tends to accumulate extra pounds on her rear rather than her stomach or other body parts before pregnancy, the same thing will probably happen when she's expecting.

Tie a hair to the mother's wedding band and suspend it above her belly. If it goes around in circles, the baby will be a girl. If it sways from side to side, the baby will be a boy.

This myth belongs to the kingdom of magic and to the art of moving the ring using the hair. No scientific theory proves that the movement of the ring is in any way related to the baby's sex, but it could be an entertaining game for a party or a baby shower.

How you move and what you see can endanger your baby

If you lift your hands above your head, your baby could be strangled by the umbilical cord.

The movements of your arms are in no way related to the movements of the umbilical cord. Exercising is very beneficial for both you and for your baby, and lifting your arms or sorting out the closet will not affect your baby's cord at all. Some babies are born with the cord wrapped around their neck, but it's caused by the baby's own movements inside the womb.

If you see something ugly when you're pregnant, your baby will be ugly, too.

What you see during your pregnancy has no effect on your baby's appearance. Genes determine your baby's looks (although, as we all know, there are no ugly babies!).

If you watch a lunar eclipse during your pregnancy, your baby will have a cleft lip.

This ancient myth has been traced back to the Aztecs. They believed that an eclipse was a bite on the face of the moon. If a mother watched it, the same thing would happen to her baby. For protection, the mom must carry something metallic, such as a safety pin, on her underwear. Although it's a beautiful myth, the truth is that a cleft palate is caused by a blend of genetic and environmental factors that in no way include the planets.

You can't take a bath during pregnancy because the dirty water will reach your baby.

As long as the water isn't too hot, you'll find a bath very relaxing, especially near the end of your pregnancy. Don't worry about the dirty water, either. Your uterus is sealed by a mucus plug to protect your baby, so the water can't come in.

Surprising effects of what you eat and your digestion

If you have heartburn, your baby will be very hairy.

This is one of the most widespread myths. In reality, the amount of hair depends on the genes your baby inherits. If your husband or you have a lot of hair, it's possible that your baby will, too. Heartburn during pregnancy is related to other factors, such as the tissues being more relaxed because of hormones or the pressure of your uterus on the stomach.

If you don't eat a lot of fruit during pregnancy, your baby will be "dirty".

Eating fruit is always a healthy habit, and when you're pregnant it provides vitamins and minerals that are essential for your baby's growth. But there's no way of preventing your baby from being "dirty" at birth. Newborns are covered with a white, cheesy substance called vernix caseosa, which protects their skin as they float in the amniotic fluid in your belly.

If you eat a lot of cheese or dairy products, your baby will be born with cradle cap.

Dairy products are a healthy and necessary food group, and during pregnancy they provide the calcium required for your baby's growth. Cradle cap – those scaly or crusty patches that appear on some babies' heads – is not related to what the mother eats. It's caused by an excess of oil in the baby's scalp. It's harmless and very common, regardless of how many dairy products a mother consumes. Cradle cap goes away on its own, but there are some things you can do to minimize it.

Música, maestro!

Babies who don't listen to music during pregnancy end up being deaf.

Once your baby's ears have developed, he'll be able to hear your voice and some things that happen around you. Although he may enjoy certain types of music (many babies seem to prefer classical), listening to tunes from the womb won't affect his hearing one way or the other.

Always satisfy a pregnant woman's cravings!

If you don't satisfy an expectant mom's cravings, you'll get a dark mark on your nose.

Although many moms-to-be may wish they had that power, no link has been established between letting cravings go unsatisfied and developing a blotch on the nose. Of course, you might want to keep this a secret!

Lourdes Alcañiz is the author of Waiting for Bebé: A Pregnancy Guide for Latinas.

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