Old Wives’ Tales: The Scientific Link


Old wives’ tales are often taken very seriously, especially by pregnant women. Everyone seems to be looking for clues of gender and physical attributes up until the birth. There are many forms of advice passed down through generations that lead women to believe some odd things. Some of these old wives’ tales, however, have some factual evidence.

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Indigestion Equals a Hairy Baby
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The indigestion suffered during pregnancy can be severe. This side effect of pregnancy is often attributed to a baby with a full head of hair. All babies have fine hair covering their bodies while in the womb and often after birth. This old wives’ tale, however, is referring to the hair on a baby’s head. Before you stock up on baby brushes and hair bows, take a look at what science has to say. Indigestion is indeed correlated to the pregnancy, but not an indicator of the amount of hair. Pregnancy hormones, in general, are to blame for this uncomfortable situation.

Chewing Gum Takes Seven Years to Digest

This old wives’ tale may have started as a scare tactic to deter children from chewing gum in class. Kids are often told not to swallow gum, or it will remain in their stomachs for seven years. This advice usually comes after the gum is swallowed in an effort to hide the evidence. Thankfully, this tale has no scientific backing. Gum follows the same process as any other ingested item. The body extracts anything it can out of the gum, such as sugar, then sends it on its way. Constipation and blockage can occur in rare cases involving large amounts of gum. Small children are especially susceptible. Normally, gum completes its journey out of the body just like any other waste product.

A Long, Complicated Delivery Points to a Baby Boy

Most couples find out the sex of their baby long before labor sets in. In the past, however, many people looked for clues indicating the gender. If all other signs failed, labor was thought to be the final piece of evidence. A long labor is thought to be associated with a male birth. Boys are also said to bring more complications during a birth, including C-sections. While scientists were not convinced at first, research showed some proof to this old wives’ tale. Studies showed an increase in male babies in women with longer labor times. An increase in difficulty was also witnessed.

Boys may be thought to be more trouble, as the superstition dictates. The truth behind these complications, however, is more concrete. Boy babies are generally larger than girls. This opens the door to more complications during birth. Pushing may take longer, due to increased size. The risk of a C-section also increases with larger babies.

Swimming After Eating Leads to Drowning

Many people have grown up with warnings to stay out of the water after eating.  This tale is followed by warnings of cramps and drowning. Rest assured, this is not just a mother’s ploy to get kids to sit still for a while. There are sound facts to back up this claim. After eating, your body adjusts blood flow to aid in digestion. More blood is directed to the stomach during this time. With the focus on the stomach, your body may not be in optimal shape to perform the physical task of swimming. An emergency in the water would require extreme physical exertion. Enjoy a little break after eating before returning to the water. Once digestion is well underway, regular oxygen distribution to your extremities returns to normal.

Eating Bananas Leads to a Boy Baby

This old wives’ tale warns women to steer clear of bananas if they wish for a little girl. Dietary restrictions are difficult enough during pregnancy, without adding this factor. There is nothing factual to back up this claim. Food consumption, however, has been linked to gender in some ways. Eating specific foods during pregnancy cannot change the genetic permanence of your child’s sex. Feel free to eat bananas as often as you like. The food link is related to eating habits prior to pregnancy. Women who eat more and have a higher body weight tend to have a higher incidence of male babies.

Shaving Causes Hair to Grow Thicker

Girls everywhere panic little bit when they hear this old wives’ tale for the first time. There are often warnings against shaving anything other than legs and underarms. Women who shave their arms are thought to be doomed to a lifetime of gorilla like regrowth. Science fails to back-up this long foretold scenario. Hair is naturally thicker at the root than on the ends. Hair that is seen surfacing after a shave is the same as before. This new hair growth will also appear darker and coarser until it fully grows in. This is due to it being so close to the surface. The only complication with shaving is the necessity of maintenance. Waxing or hair removal creams extend the time skin remains smooth.

Pregnancy Causes Tooth Loss

The old wives tail pertaining to dental complications states that women are likely to lose one tooth for each child they give birth to. This information does not leave new mothers hopeful for their post baby appearance. Complete tooth loss may not be a real issue in most cases, however, dental issues are quite apparent during pregnancy and after.

Part of the problem may stem from the dietary changes of pregnant women. Abnormal cravings may lead women to snack on more sugar based foods. This can lead to cavities if not kept under control. The increase in acid reflux and regular vomiting also contributes to increased acids in the mouth area. A good brush and rinse after meals and a bout of morning sickness may help. These symptoms, coupled with multiple pregnancies, put mothers at a higher risk for negative dental symptoms.

Hormonal changes during pregnancy have a profound effect on dental health. It is a good idea to visit your dentist as soon as a pregnancy is planned. Preventative care can improve health prior to conceiving and keep your teeth in good shape during the pregnancy. Gum disease is a common issue for pregnant women. Take extra steps to maintain your health during this time. Brushing and flossing are mandatory during this time. There is no reason to lose a tooth with the advances in modern medical care. This old wives’ tale does hold some truth, after all.

Old wives’ tales are a fun part of growing up. They link us to past generations and cultural beliefs. For optimal health and wellness, it is important to stay informed of proper developments concerning medical knowledge. Old wives’ tales often play a big part in major life events, such as pregnancy. These tales are sure to continue through generations even as we forget their reasons of origin. Doctors and scientists have helped to pinpoint the reasons and possible validity of many of these old wives’ tales.

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