One thing women should expect during pregnancy is that there will be tons of advice and tips; they’ll even hear many myths or “pamahiin.” Even these days, some women still follow these myths for the sake of “wala namang masama kung maniniwala” or “better to be safe than sorry.”
These pamahiins abound in Filipino culture, and while some people find no harm in trying, the reality is that expectant mothers go through a lot of physical, mental, and emotional changes even after their baby is born, which could contribute to the experiences so many women have had and continue to experience. Sticking to proven facts and listening to the doctor’s advice can help keep a mother and her baby healthy and safe during pregnancy and after childbirth.
We asked Obstetrician Gynecologist (OB-GYN) Dr. Sybil Bravo about some common pregnancy myths, so we can set the record straight.
- Bawal mag-exercise ang buntis. (Pregnant women are not allowed to exercise.)
MYTH. According to Dr. Bravo, pregnant women can do certain exercises to avoid blood clots: 30 minutes per day or 3 times a week of movement like light swimming, brisk walking, stationary cycling, dancing, and low-impact aerobics while pregnant can help improve posture and lessen back pains and tiredness, but seek your doctor’s advice before doing so.
2. Pwede pa ring gumamit ng skin care at beauty products ang buntis. (Expectant moms can still do their regular beauty and skin care routine.)
FACT. Dr. Bravo clarifies that while pregnant women can still do their regular skin care and make-up routine, beauty and skin products that contain retinoids, vitamin A derivatives, and salicylic acid should be avoided as they can cause harm to your baby. Hair color should also be avoided. Always consult your doctor and read the product label before use.
3. Bawal ang hilaw na pagkain sa buntis.(Raw food is a big no-no for pregnant moms, and cravings have a direct effect on your baby.)
MYTH. Pregnant women can still eat raw foods such as sashimi and sushi as long as it is meticulously cleaned. She also emphasized that pregnancy cravings don’t have a direct correlation and effect to your baby, unless you eat unhealthy foods. Likewise, on eating vegetables like malunggay (which can aid in the production of breastmilk), Dr. Bravo advises to thoroughly clean them before consumption. She also dismissed the pamahiin that eating twin bananas will result in twin babies, as twins are mostly associated with genes.
4. Malalaman ang gender ng anak ko based sa hugis ng tummy ko. (My tummy shape can tell the gender of my baby.)
MYTH. Opinions abound about how one can tell if a woman is carrying a baby girl or a baby boy based on tummy shape, skin condition, overall glow and aura, and more. But Dr. Bravo maintains that these are mere assumptions, and the best way to determine the baby’s gender is to go and have an ultrasound. That’s a lot more exciting!
5. Pwedeng magpa-bakuna ang buntis. (Pregnant women can get vaccination.)
FACT. Getting vaccinated increases the body’s natural defenses to protect both mom and baby against diseases. “Sa pagbabakuna ng mga buntis, ang kanilang baby ay mabibigyan din ng protection laban sa mga infections dahil nagkakaroon ng placental transfer ang maternal antibodies from maternal immunization,” says Dr. Bravo. Vaccines like the hepatitis A and B vaccines, the flu shot, tetanus toxoid, tetanus-diphtheria-pertussis, and anti-pneumonia are safe for pregnant women, but one should always consult their doctor before getting vaccinated. Pregnant women, according to Dr. Bravo, are considered a vulnerable group and they should prioritize immunization when recommended by their doctor.
Vaccination is also necessary for babies after they are born. Pediatrician, infectious diseases and pharmacology expert Dr. Benjamin Co sheds light on the importance of vaccination for babies and children and helps debunk some old pamahiin that infants have to live with, too.
- Kumain ng itlog para lumabas ang tigdas. (Eat eggs to induce ‘tigdas’ or measles.)
MYTH. Dr. Co asserts that exanthematous rashes appear on skin because of viral infections, and allergy to eggs has no relation to the aforementioned infection. When your baby has viral rashes, always seek medical help and ask about vaccination against measles. Avoid self-diagnosing and self-medicating.
2. Paliguan ng kulantro si baby kapag may bulutong para mabilis gumaling. (Bathe the baby with coriander to help them heal faster from chicken pox.)
MYTH. This advice from the elderly may still circulate, but Dr. Co states that kulantro or coriander does not have anti-viral and antipruritic properties to counter the effects of bulutong or chicken pox, and may even worsen the condition. “We don’t need anything else to irritate the skin,” says the pediatrician. Once again, mothers should consult their doctors about proper remedies for and vaccination against varicella or chickenpox.
3. Bawal pakainin o painumin ang batang nagtatae or nagsusuka (You cannot feed a child when they are experiencing diarrhea or vomiting.)
MYTH. According to Dr. Co, a child should be fed and rehydrated during bouts of diarrhea and/or vomiting. Small, frequent feeding of a simple diet and lots of water and child-safe rehydration solutions are recommended. “Probiotics help a lot in most viral enteritis infections. Several studies have shown that pre- and probiotics shorten the period of diarrhea and patients quickly recover. [Usually], diarrhea and vomiting are self-limited, and they will recover quickly.” Mothers are also advised to visit their child’s pediatrician during these episodes to determine the cause of the diarrhea. It is also recommended for mothers to talk to their pediatrician when seeking preventative measures such as vaccination to protect their children from rotavirus that causes gastroenteritis.
4. Lagyan ng bigkis si baby para hindi kabagin. (A ‘bigkis’ can help with a gassy baby.)
MYTH. Babies are naturally gassy because of their yet-underdeveloped digestive system, swallowing too much air when latching or feeding from bottles in certain positions, excessive crying, minor digestive problems, introduction of new and various foods, and switching from one milk formula to another. Putting on a bigkis is just another myth, maintains Dr. Co. “Positioning the baby so their head is above their stomach, gently moving their legs in a circle, elevating the head, keeping them in an upright position for burping for 15-30 minutes, cradling them face down, massaging the belly gently, performing tummy time or keeping them on their tummy and watch them move around can help remedy the gas,” he says.
5. Kapag ang baby ay biglang nagkasakit, siya ay nausog. (When a baby suddenly gets sick, ‘nausog sila’)
MYTH. According to this pamahiin, the typical cure for ‘sudden mysterious illness’ is to have the stranger lick their thumb and press it onto the forehead or stomach of the baby. Dr. Co debunks this, emphasizing that the mouth is considered the dirtiest part of the human body, and a stranger’s saliva “will not do any magic.” “Getting sick is part of the child’s response to everything they are exposed to in their environment. Saliva has no medical purpose in life except to lubricate the food we eat so that it is more easily digestible,” he adds.
The number one advice for mothers and babies to keep them at the best of health is to always seek professional medical advice and visit their doctors regularly. Medical breakthroughs such as vaccination, can be a huge help in maintaining protection against vaccine-preventable diseases.
Vaccination is one of the most effective public health interventions in the history of the world next to clean water*, so the best thing to do is for parents to get their children vaccinated early and continue to encourage them to do so over the course of their lifetime. To learn more about vaccination and what is beneficial for pregnant women and their children, visit your doctor today. Call the Shots is an advocacy campaign led by MSD in the Philippines.
References: *“Vaccines: still the first line of defence against killer diseases ….” 25 Apr. 2019, https://www.publichealth.hscni.net/news/vaccines-still-first-line-defence-against-killer-diseases-0. Accessed 22 Oct. 2020