‘You need to eat for two during pregnancy’

You should definitely be increasing the amount of certain nutrients during pregnancy. But you need only about 300 more calories per day, roughly the equivalent of one slice of wholegrain bread and one tablespoon of peanut butter. If you put on too much weight during pregnancy, you increase your risk of gestational diabetes, backaches, high blood pressure, and needing a caesarean birth because your baby is very large.

Conversely, gaining too little weight during pregnancy is a concern. It can lead to low birth weight, premature delivery and, later, developmental delays, learning disabilities, and chronic health problems in your baby.

On average, women gain between 10kg to 15kg by the end of their pregnancy. While much of this weight is down to increased fluid, enlarged breasts and uterus, and the growing baby and placenta, some of those extra pounds will stay with you after the birth. It’s these pounds you want to think about when you enjoy ‘eating for two’ during pregnancy.

Keep in mind that it is not the quantity you eat during pregnancy that is important, it is the quality. – Dr Rashi Gupta

‘It is better to have an episiotomy than to tear’

Neither of these options is good, so preparing the perineum as you would prepare for running a long-distance marathon is beneficial in preventing both. Start at 36 weeks, not before, and have a look at the EPI-NO, a pelvic-floor muscle exercise device to help prepare for giving birth and postnatal recovery. – Cecile De Scally

‘Epidurals are dangerous for the baby’

Epidural anaesthesia is regional anaesthesia that blocks pain in a particular region of the body, and it is the most popular method of pain relief during labour. The goal of an epidural is to provide analgesia, or pain relief, rather than anaesthesia, which leads to total lack of feeling.

Research on the effects of epidurals on newborns is somewhat ambiguous, and many factors can affect the health of a newborn. How much of an impact these medications will have is difficult to predetermine and can vary based on dosage, the length of labour, and the characteristics of each individual baby.

Since dosages and medications can vary, concrete information from research is currently unavailable. One possible side effect of an epidural with some babies is a struggle with “latching on” in breastfeeding. Another is that while in utero, a baby might also become lethargic and have trouble getting into position for delivery.

These medications have also been known to cause respiratory depression and decreased fetal heart rate in newborns. Although the medication might not harm these babies, they could experience some subtle effects like those mentioned above. – Dr Rashi Gupta

‘You should dress your baby in the same number of layers you are wearing, plus two’

The rule of thumb is that the baby needs one more layer than you in the day and two more at night. This is relevant until around four to six months, when you will see them starting to indicate they are uncomfortable, but there is no prescribed period. – Cecile De Scally

‘Your husband will notice you’re not the same ‘down there’ if you give birth vaginally’

It seems to be a common misconception that women having a caesarean section will have the best time with regards to sex after childbirth, but research says it’s usually the other way around.

Firstly, it’s important for women to understand that the vagina is designed like a piano accordion – it’s actually designed to stretch open. Another help is that the baby is slippery, covered in vernix, or at least wet with amniotic fluid. This lubrication will help the baby move through the birth canal. The result of vaginal birth is an increase in blood supply to the area. This can result in women actually becoming more orgasmic after vaginal birth. This effect may be reduced if the pelvic floor is weak, however a women’s-health physiotherapist can teach women how to correctly exercise these muscles to improve strength.

The hormones of labour after a natural birth can leave women feeling incredibly empowered and more confident in their own abilities and their sexuality. Combined with the capability to be more orgasmic, many women find their sex life is better after a vaginal birth. However, it’s also important to bear in mind that you may temporarily lose your libido after baby – and not just due to tiredness. – Dr Rashi Gupta

‘Labour can be naturally pain free’

Yes it can. I have seen such a birth, and it was much faster than others and really exhilarating. Rather than just being sheer luck, I think it was well researched, well prepared for and took a whole lot of positive attitude from both the mother and the father. The best way of increasing your own likelihood of a pain-free labour is through healthy eating and exercise, research, preparation of the perineum, and lots of mental preparation too. – Cecile De Scally

‘You can’t do anything for six weeks after having a Caesarean’

Depending on your psychology, you may feel the need to do less in this key time, or perhaps you’ll want to throw yourself back into an exercise regime at the earliest convenience. Only you really know what is going to be the best. C-sections often dictate less exercise due to the rate of healing of scar tissue – check with someone who understands scar healing and integration of exercises before starting, but six weeks is a good marker in this case. If you feel like getting out of the house and walking or even doing 10-15 minutes of some light floor-strengthening exercises daily, this isn’t going to hurt after a few weeks. You may find that the ability to stabilise your back is compromised, so doing the right type of light exercise is essential. Ultimately the goal should be regaining energy, and as much sleep as possible to support your future efforts rather than attempting to rush headfirst into intense exercise. Even working on breathing correctly can help to reintegrate core muscles, so less is more during this time. – Keith Littlewood

‘A vaginal birth is more likely to make you incontinent than a C-section’

There is a possibility that giving birth either vaginally or by C-section can increase the chances of incontinence. The pelvic floor is a key component of the intrinsic stabilising system, which comprises the diaphragm (the main muscle of inhalation), the transversus abdominus (the hoop-like muscle that traverses the abdomen) and the many muscles of the pelvic floor. Given that a woman is likely to experience certain changes to how she stabilises her spine during pregnancy, nothing is written in stone, as dysfunction may occur somewhat subjectively. Episiotomies, tears or C-sections all leave scar tissue that can cause muscles to overwork and some to underwork, which may contribute to incontinence. Therefore the way that each individual woman chooses to stabilise the spine may lead to incontinence. Kegel exercises can be useful in some, but if the pelvic floor is facilitated it can lead to an increase in incontinence in some cases. The conclusion? Incontinence can occur in both natural births and C-sections but can be remedied with the right therapy. – Keith Littlewood

‘Feeding your baby solids early on will help her or him sleep through the night’

The variables associated with introducing solids can be subjective, but let’s make a suggestion based on some observations from studies. Infants who were fed exclusively breast milk for six months appeared to suffer less gastro-intestinal (GI) distress than those who were introduced to solids at an earlier age. Would those with less GI stress sleep better? That would make sense. Nonetheless, certain foods remain more easily digested than others and gut bacteria also varies between each person, along with our ability to tolerate certain foods. The idea of introducing solids early to help your baby sleep through the night touches on the notion that increased food will provide adequate energy to sleep through. More often than not babies tend to wake due to hunger or because they are in distress with a stomach upset of some kind.

Opinions vary between parents and experts but I think that the answer will also be according to each baby and how their own digestive system is functioning. In summary, the research certainly seems to favour breast-feeding for the first six months to decrease GI issues, but there will always be some variability. – Keith Littlewood

‘Most women have the baby blues’

Hypothyroidism (which is associated with depression) post-partum is well documented – but before you rush off and check your thyroid, let’s be contextual. Sure, the thyroid may present with an increase or decrease of thyroid hormone, and depression is generally associated with the latter, hypothyroidism. However, giving birth is probably the most stressful action that the female body has to endure: it’s demanding, it uses up a phenomenal amount of energy and stress hormones.

I am speculating here, but that wave of new-baby euphoria may be replaced by the reality of fatigue, sleepless nights, breastfeeding, and healing if you have any tears or had a C-section. Adrenaline and cortisol may be high or low depending on the person, which may also affect thyroid function. Your rate of healing and energy production may be blunted. So is it normal to feel a bit low after this life-changing event? Yes, of course it is.

Is there a solution? Yes, I believe that taking it slowly and eating energy-rich foods that support the metabolism (and healing, if scars are formed) is the way to go. I see many female clients who have rushed back into intense exercise when they’re really not ready for it. If the symptoms of depression or feeling low persist, check your body temperature underarm to see if it is low (below 36.8C), this can back up potential thyroid blood tests that may need to be done by a doctor. – Keith Littlewood

‘You should have your child’s stem cells collected if you can afford it’

I agree. There have been so many areas of progress in this particular section of medicine that we do not yet fully understand how much it could help or what it could change. Parents who need these cells can feel lost when looking for donors, as they often are not available.

I worked in this field before cord blood stem cells were available and we dealt with bone marrow, which is well known – cord blood is a step up from that. When looking into stem cell collection, consult good clinical research articles, written by experts in the field and published. Also look at whole blood collection instead of a processed sample.

It’s worth mentioning that stem cell collection does not interfere with delayed cord clamping, if that is what you wish to do. – Cecile De Scally