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Old wives’ tales that baffle nurses!

Very few healthcare subjects bring up as many strange myths as pregnancy and childbirth.

Some can be explained by science, but others continue to befuddle those of us who are supposed to “know better.” These days, most of it’s simply in good fun, but occasionally there will be a great-grandmother who absolutely believes in this stuff.

Here are a few of the more popular “words of wisdom” that have been passed down for generations. See if they baffle you as much as they baffle me!

Old wives’ tales that baffle nurses!

1. You are not supposed to cut a baby’s hair before he/she is a year old. (Because it will be shorter?!)

2. If you look at something unpleasant while pregnant, you’ll have an ugly baby. (Guess it depends on your definition of ugly?)

3. If you reach above your head while pregnant, it will wrap the cord around the baby’s neck. (This is an “oldie but goodie” that is still around.)

4. You must lose a tooth with each baby. (To keep track of how many kids you have?)

5. It’s important to satisfy cravings for eating clay, laundry starch, etc., when pregnant. (We now call this “pica” and know that anemia is a very real problem in these women.)

6. You can tell the sex of the baby by how s/he is “carried.” (Or just get an ultrasound?)

7. If you bury a knife in the yard, the labor pains won’t be so bad. (Anybody?)

8. You can tell the sex of the baby by looking at how a wedding ring swings when you hold it over your belly. (Fact is: If you hang a ring over any object or person it’s going to swing.)

9. If a pregnant woman experiences heartburn throughout the nine months of pregnancy, she’ll have a baby born with a full head of hair. (I cannot begin to figure the rationale behind this one!)

10. If your face gets fuller and rounder when pregnant, it means you’re going to have a girl. If your face is long and narrow, it’s a boy. (What if your face doesn’t change at all?)

Some of you may know the history/rationale behind these things. Please share if you do! (OB has never been my area of expertise, except for knowing how to PUSH!)

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Nurse Rene

Nurse Rene has been an RN since 1978; CCRN since 1989 and attained a BSN in 2010. She has worked in virtually every specialty from Neonatology to Neurosurgery and is a Member of Sigma Theta Tau International Nursing Honor Society with a particular interest in helping students and new grads develop to their full potential. She's been married for 33 years and has a keen interest in history and in current issues as nursing continues to develop as a Real Profession. When not spoiling the grandchildren, she enjoys sewing, cooking, kayaking, camping and travel. She likes all music which does not hurt her ears, watching NCIS, Leverage, Top Gear and Criminal Minds and reads books written by Clive Cussler, Miss Manners, Erma Bombeck and Tom Clancy. She enjoys collecting Quotations for use in her writings.
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19 Responses to Old wives’ tales that baffle nurses!

  1. ERnurse08 RN

    Actually, the heartburn/hair thing is true d/t hormones. Not a ‘Wives’ Tale’. I had it bad during pregnancy & had a lil 1 w/ a head full of hair!

    • natkins10

      It’s a myth. I have two children who were both born with a ton of long, dark, thick hair and zero heartburn the while pregnancy. My last child was almost bald and I have tons of heartburn with him. I would think it has to do with the uterus pushing on the stomach which decreases the room for food and pushes the stomach acid upwards creating heartburn.

  2. coppernurse RN

    There is an old Italian wives tale about eating a certain food to induce labor. I can’t remember the food though. When a friend was pregnant an Italian nursing professor told her this and the next night my friend and her husband went to a restaurant and she had the dish, It didn’t do anything except give her bowel problems.

  3. drb5

    IN Jewish circles if the Mom to be is beyond her due date she or her husband will ask if they can be the one to open the ark before the Torah service. This act is rumored to begin labor

  4. babyducks

    I had zero heartburn, and the drs words as she was crowing was “holy shit, she has a ton of hair” at that point, a final push was in order.. lol. Literally combed her hair in the hospital

  5. kgrn06

    The heartburn oldv wives tale is not true…I had horrible heartburn for 37 wks…which was my entire pregnancy the first time and 36 wks with the 2nd both of my girls were bald.

  6. mabeauliv

    The wedding ring trick works 100%. I have been doing it for years with family, friends and even a few strangers. Lol. I did have a little lady tell her daughter that people who could do the ring trick had to be part native american (im cherokee descendant). So I guess that would be a wives tale in a wives tale. :)

  7. RBRN

    Some communities in Mexico say, during an eclipse or full moon if you are pregnant you should wear a red ribbon around your belly, or you will have a miscarriage or your baby will be born with clef palate.

    also some communities in south Mexico still believe.in witches, so when the sun comes down, pregnant women uses baby pins to form a cross in on their clothes, on top of the belly,.otherwise the witches can take your baby soul.

    These among other stories are very popular in the traditional Mexico, as nurse working in labor and delivery, at that time, is was very amazed of all the things women will do to protect their childs.

  8. rockerRN

    In terms of cutting hair, I heard that it’s an old superstition to protect baby boys from the demon Lilith. She was said to kidnap boys but if she couldn’t tell the difference by glancing in the crib if the baby was a boy or girl, she would leave the child alone

  9. Bokab

    In Ghana, they say, if you want your child to become a thief, eat egg when you’re pregnant. Haha. Unbelievable!

  10. saltyl

    The thing about losing a tooth dates back to the days before vitamin/calcium supplements were a routine thing and diets were much less adequate than they are now…the calcium for the baby was leached from mom’s teeth and bones.

  11. kjkamk RN

    I actually read a nursing article that there is a correlation between hair on babies and heartburn. Wish I’d saved it!

  12. qaqueen RN

    A friend from Poland was concerned that if she cut her baby’s hair before he turned two, that it would make him stutter.

    My mother-in-law told me that if I cut my son’s fingernails, he would become a liar and a thief. She said you had to bite the nails if they were too long.

  13. Mandy Baxter Raines

    I read an article that stated if you have heartburn then you have an increased chance of having a baby with a lot of hair because of the hormone progesterone. It causes the sphincter in the stomach to relax (causing heartburn), and can also cause hair growth on the fetus. Not always, but sometimes. I will say, however, that I had terrible heartburn, and my baby was as bald as can be. :)

  14. hug44ins

    I was very pregnant during my last weeks of Nursing School in the 60s. A patient told me that I was having a girl because I carried so high. She crocheted a beautiful sweater set, pink with angora trim. After having 5 boys, my granddaughter was the first baby to wear the sweater set!

  15. lenzy

    In the African American community you do not cut a boy’s hair until he is a year old because it will mess up his hair line permanently.

  16. PHN4EVER

    If you cut a child’s hair before his/her first birthday – the baby will stutter!

  17. Cindy Peterson

    My Mom always said, “if you cut a baby’s hair before their 1st birthday, it will cut their smarts off”. I wish I had asked her where that came from. She was German, possibly an old German Wives tale?

  18. Carol LPN

    My mother always told us to not tickle a baby’s feet before they were six months old because it would make them stutter. I’m not sure where that came from, I don’t remember any family members that stuttered. (Maybe because their feet weren’t tickled?)

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