We're often told to take what people say with a grain of salt, but the word of the doctor is still considered sacred by many, especially when it concerns pregnant women and newborns. The problem with this attitude of taking the healthcare provider's word as the law is that often even well-meaning doctors hold firmly-held beliefs that are not always grounded in scientific research. In fact, some commonly held medical practices performed on pregnant and laboring women in the US have very little scientific evidence to back them up—they just became so ingrained in the process that doctors accept them as fact.
It's true that doctors and even nurses and certified nurse midwives undergo far more rigorous and in-depth training than most of their patients, yet even just a little digging can uncover a number of half-truths and blatant assumptions that steer healthcare policy for pregnant women with very little evidence to support them. While some doctors have kept up with research and are careful to explain the reasoning behind the procedure as well as the science, others are content to justify a procedure as necessary because it's what's always been done. Some of the most common things that doctors tell their patients may be very surprising—read on to see if any of the following look familiar.
20 Bed Rest Is Best
When doctors are concerned about the risk of a loss or premature birth in pregnant women, they don't even hesitate to prescribe bed rest. Often pregnant women are told to go on bed rest for several months, and the reasons can vary from a mom carrying multiple babies to slight hypertension, according to NPR. Unfortunately for these women, bed rest is often prescribed despite no evidence that it helps at all, and mounting evidence that it can cause harm. Yet doctors still recommend it, explaining that even if it doesn't help, it can't hurt—but it actually can physically hurt the mother.
19 Dealing With Vaccine Delay
Controversy continues to swirl around infant immunizations—also called vaccinations—as parents and doctors argue over the benefits and risks of getting the vaccinations at all, or changing the timing of their administration. Because a growing number of parents are concerned about the “vaccine load” of giving their baby too many shots in a short period of time and potentially putting strain on the body with the vaccine adjuvants, they're asking doctors for an alternative vaccine schedule, according to Vaxopedia. However, current evidence does not support a delayed or alternative vaccine schedule, and the few studies on the issue indicate that it could expose the child to a greater risk of side effects.
18 Cravings Are Hormonal
Doctors know that pregnant women often crave specific food items, and doctors also know that pregnancy involves a tremendous shift in hormone levels, and so, therefore, doctors have tied cravings to hormonal fluctuations. Unfortunately, there's no real evidence that cravings are caused by hormone changes, or that higher levels of specific hormones drive cravings for certain foods, as per Livestrong. The only link that has definitively been established is the link between pregnancy cravings and aversions. Doctors don't really know the source of a pregnant woman's cravings, which vary wildly in different regions and countries—all they've got are their best guesses.
17 Pacifiers Teach Bad Habits
Part of the problem with pacifier use in babies is that the recommendations from “official” expert bodies have shifted several times in the last few years, resulting in generational differences and gaps in knowledge for both parents and pediatricians. Currently—based on the most recent evidence—it appears that pacifiers are perfectly safe, and may even reduce the risk of SIDS in newborns, according to Mama Natural. Many doctors will still chastise parents for allowing their child to continue using a pacifier, citing concern that he'll develop nipple confusion or a long-term dependency on the pacifier, despite a lack of evidence supporting these claims.
16 How Meds Affect The Pregnant Mom
Although doctors are quick to prohibit and caution pregnant women against using medications of any kind during their pregnancy, the fact of the matter is that very few studies have been done on the effects of various medications on both the pregnant body and the fetus, as per Science News. There's a distinct lack of evidence on the subject and a disinclination to organize any clinical trials or studies, as there is worry of harming the baby. While protecting a growing baby is important, it often comes at a high price to the mother, who is kept from getting the medication she may vitally need.
15 Breech Babies Mean C Sections
While recent studies showed that delivering breech babies in the traditional manner does carry a higher risk of neonatal mortality, the entire picture is far more nuanced than the idea that breech babies must be delivered by C-section. Almost no doctors in the US get training for v-birth with breech babies, so the risk rises that the doctor may make a mistake, as per Parents. Many pregnant women aren't told about the ways a breech baby can be helped to turn while still in the uterus. Risks of a breech birth are often discussed, but the risks associated with C-sections aren't always made clear to mom.
14 Acetaminophen Is Totally Pregnancy-Friendly
Several recent studies have called into question the long-held belief that acetaminophen use during pregnancy is totally safe, yet doctors still recommend it for aches and pains. As more and more studies roll in, acetaminophen has been linked to speech delays in girls and increased incidences of ADHD, according to Time. Interestingly, a Swedish study found that acetaminophen in the pregnant mother can affect fertility in boys. More research is needed, but doctors may not be basing their acetaminophen advice on the evidence.
13 VBACs Are Never Safe
With the rate of C-sections at 33% and rising, a growing number of women are still being told by their doctors that their previous C-section prohibits them from safely delivering their next baby via a v-birth. The truth is far more nuanced than that. Mothers who want a v-birth after C-section—or VBAC—can successfully do so in at least 70-75% of cases, yet many doctors and hospitals refuse to allow VBACs even in low-risk pregnant women, according to VBAC. Because these women are often told point-blank that it can't be done, they don't get all the facts about the risks and benefits of attempting a VBAC.
12 Listeria-Prone Foods
There are many foods on the list of no-no foods for pregnant women, such as soft cheeses, deli meat, and raw fish. Doctors tell pregnant mothers to avoid them, explaining that those foods can cause potentially serious infections, but that may not be the truth for every prohibited food on the list, as per Fortune. Japanese women, who enjoy some of the lowest rates of pregnancy and birth complications, also enjoy copious amounts of prepared raw fish sashimi. Listeria is a rare but dangerous infection that can be gotten from unpasteurized, soft cheeses, but can also be contracted from ice cream and frozen veggies.
We didn't always tell pregnant women to push when she became fully dilated—that didn't happen until modern obstetrics suggested that second stage labor seemed harmful in the early part of the 20th century, according to Belly Belly. Prior to that, women tended to listen to the cues of their body and the attending midwife during labor. Even unconscious women can deliver a baby. In fact, new programs that stop telling women to push during labor saw a significant reduction. There is no evidence to support telling women when to push or that they even should at the doctor's direction.
10 Back To Labor
It still happens routinely—a laboring woman checks into the hospital and is ushered to a room and then pressed into bed on her back with monitors strapped to her belly. It's common for women in the US to labor and birth on their backs, but that's a very uncommon position in most other parts of the world, according to Vice Broadly. Women are assured that's the safest way for them to labor, but all evidence points to it being a less-than-ideal position to give birth in. The only person who benefits when a woman labors on her back is her doctor or whoever is examining her.
9 It Turns Out Saunas Are Fine
The expert bodies in the US that help set safety policies for pregnant and postpartum women in the US have long held the position that saunas are far too risky and can cause an unsafe rise in body temperature. Pregnant women in other countries—such as Finland—are actually told the opposite and may even be encouraged to spend regular amounts of time in a sauna, as per BUMPS. A recent study has indicated that women who regularly used saunas, and even those who gave birth in a sauna, saw similar rates of outcome as those women who never used saunas. Doctors simply don't have supportive evidence against the use of saunas.
8 Epidurals Only Affect Mom
Doctors often only give a cursory explanation when it comes to the potential effects of an epidural. It's essential that a woman be able to choose for herself what is best for her and her baby, and that includes knowing all the facts about how an epidural may affect not just her, but her newborn. Epidurals can provide pain relief but are also more likely to create initial breastfeeding difficulties for the baby, as well as potentially affecting baby's heart rate, as per Mama Natural. Doctors often claim that epidurals have no effect on the baby at all, but some studies suggest otherwise.
7 Episiotomies Make Life Easier
Sometimes clear discouragement by experts complete with evidence still doesn't change a doctor's mind. Episiotomies are still commonplace amongst some doctors and communities, despite a lack of evidence as to their efficacy, according to NPR. While even the experts agree that there are rare cases when an episiotomy might be medically necessary, the vast majority of episiotomies cause more potential harm than good. Often changing the birthing position can achieve far more than an episiotomy can.
6 The Benefits Of Constant Electronic Fetal Monitoring
It is still commonplace for healthy, low-risk pregnant women to be placed on continuous electronic fetal monitoring (CEFM) when they are admitted in active labor to the hospital. CEFM was introduced in the 1970s and has now become widespread practice despite the fact that there is no evidence that it is more effective at determining overall neonatal outcome than hands-on listening, according to Evidence Based Birth. There is ample evidence that CEFM is, however, linked to increased likelihood of a C-section or the use of a vacuum or forceps to extract the baby. CEFM has no effect on rates of stillborn births.
5 The US Is The Safest In The World
Despite what doctors and hospitals insist, the United States is not the safest place in the world to have a baby or to be a newborn. The country that has the lowest rates of mortality for both mothers and newborns, as well as an extremely low rate of complications is Japan, as per CNN. The US doesn't even come close to the top ten countries in the world for newborn or maternal safety, and even within the US, there is wide variation in perinatal safety. The northeastern states of Vermont and New Hampshire are the safest places within the US, but Mississippi and Alabama can be downright risky in comparison.
4 Any Prenatal Vitamin Will Do
Continued scientific research into the way that pregnant women metabolize folate has indicated the presence of a gene mutation called MTHFR that may affect how and whether significant proportions of the population can metabolize the synthetic form of folate. Doctors routinely prescribe prenatal vitamins with either folate or folic acid because a lack of folate can lead to specific birth defects, according to The Conversation. Women who possess the MTHFR mutation and cannot metabolize folic acid are more prone to these midline defects—so not just any prenatal vitamin will do, yet women are not routinely tested for the presence of an MTHFR mutation.
3 All Babies Sleep Through The Night By This Time
The utter desperation due to sleep deprivation is real and can lead parents to beg the pediatrician for any shred of hope. Often the doctor will assert that baby will sleep through the night by eight months or some other similar answer, despite the fact that every baby's sleep patterns are different, according to Parenting Science. That means that experts can only estimate when babies will begin to sleep through the night. Some will sleep through the night far sooner than eight months, and some may not achieve that sleep milestone until after a year of life. A baby’s age alone is not the determining factor.
2 More Mature Mothers Will Have More Problems
The number of mothers considered of “advanced maternal age” or over the age of 35 is steadily increasing. In the US. Pregnant women over 35 are traditionally considered high-risk even if they have no underlying health issues because of their age, but doctors may have to reassess their assumptions about these pregnancies, according to Shape. The CDC reports that some of the physical risks are counterbalanced with better rates of nutrition, more consistent prenatal care, higher incomes and higher rates of education. More mature mothers are far more likely to have the resources and safety nets in place that reduce socioeconomic risks to the pregnancy.
1 The Only Thing That Matters Is A Healthy Baby
Possibly the one myth that has caused most of both parents and healthcare providers to be misled, which is still constantly reinforced, is the idea that a healthy baby is all that matters—this is patently false and very risky, as per Belly Belly. It can marginalize the needs of the mother. As researchers begin to look into this phenomenon, they're discovering that many women report coercion to do things they didn't want to do, undergoing unnecessary procedures, and experience long-term consequences. The mother's needs weren't considered in conjunction with what the doctor deemed best for baby, yet mother's health matters significantly to the baby's continued quality of life.