Crazy Urban Legends About Pregnancy and Pregnant Women

Pregnant women are given a lot of advice from doctors, neighbors, family, and friends. While some of it is practical and rooted in science, such as laying off the alcohol and avoiding harsh chemicals, others are merely old wives' tales with no evidence to back them up.

Common urban legends about pregnancy often assert that you can tell the gender of your baby if you conduct a certain ritual, or that certain encounters or behaviors during pregnancy will affect the personality of the child. Others are meant to protect the woman and her child from evil spirits that might be drawn to new life with malicious intent.

Weird pregnancy legends exist in every culture around the world, and some seem to be oddly universal, crossing oceans and language barriers to persist among families everywhere. And at least one on this list turned out to be true, but not for the reasons people used to think.

  • In The '30s, People Believed a Dead Rabbit Meant Pregnancy

    In the 1920s, it was discovered that women who are pregnant begin producing a hormone known as hCG. This hormone could be found in a pregnant woman's urine. Researchers also discovered that if you injected a pregnant woman's urine into a female mouse that had yet to mature, the ovaries would enlarge and show follicular maturation.

    They also did this with rabbits and noted changes in the rabbit's ovaries that only occurred if the urine was from a pregnant woman. This led to the belief that you could perform a "rabbit test" to see if a woman was expecting. However, the "rabbit test" myth that circulated was simply that if you injected urine from a woman into a female rabbit and it died, it meant the woman was pregnant.

    Rabbits in the experiment always died because researchers had to remove the rabbit's ovaries to examine them. The popular perception of how the "rabbit test" worked was a myth, though the actual experiment was rooted in fact. In modern times, it's best to just to save your urine for a test from the pharmacy.

  • Mixing Drano with a Pregnant Woman's Urine Tells the Baby's Gender

    Mixing Drano with a Pregnant Woman's Urine Tells the Baby's Gender
    Photo: demcanulty / flickr / CC-BY 2.0

    Some people, even in modern times, believe that mixing Drano with a pregnant woman's urine will reveal the sex of the child. According to Snopes, some versions rely on the color the mixture turns, while others say that a lot of bubbles indicates a boy. In reality, it doesn't work, and it could be harmful if the expecting mother breathes in the fumes. 

  • A Hawaiian Myth Says Giving a Closed Lei to a Pregnant Woman Is Bad

    A Hawaiian Myth Says Giving a Closed Lei to a Pregnant Woman Is Bad
    Photo: asheshwor / flickr / CC-BY-NC 2.0

    A Hawaiian myth states that giving a pregnant woman a closed lei is a no-no, as it implies the umbilical cord is or will become wrapped around the baby's neck. Open leis are fine. 

    Likewise, some may caution that raising your arms above your head while pregnant may cause your baby's umbilical cord to get wrapped around its neck. This is false, as your body position has very little to do with what your baby is up to. 

  • The Aztecs Believed Lunar Eclipses Would Result in a Cleft Lip

    An Aztec myth indicated that a pregnant woman who observed a lunar eclipse would have a baby with a cleft lip. This is in part due to the belief that an eclipse indicated something had taken a bite out of the moon and would do the same to a baby's mouth. Others believed that a baby might even be born missing facial features entirely. 

    Another common myth is that more babies are born when there is a full moon than when there is not. There is no evidence to support this.