Old Wives' Tales
Rooted in Oral Traditions
Old wives' tales are perhaps as old as language itself. They're part of our oral tradition, originating long before pen and ink, books and movies, and certainly before the Internet. Why do we cling to such tales about common ailments and our health when we live in a world rich with medical expertise and proven treatments and cures?
Some probably have survived through the ages because they offer comforting advice about experiences we all share, have little control over, and usually worry about, such as childbirth and sickness.
Many old wives' tales, especially those surrounding pregnancy and childbirth, have been proven false or irrelevant by advances in medicine and technology. One example is the use of prenatal ultrasound to detect the sex of a fetus instead of dangling a ring suspended on a string over the expectant woman's belly. According to the tale, if the ring swings from side to side, it's a girl, and if it swings in a circle, it's a boy. An ultrasound reading may not be as much fun, but the test results are certainly more accurate.
Some old wives' tales about health and sickness have some basis in fact, whereas other, newer ones seem to reflect a kind of technophobia, such as those related to watching television. Though some old wives' tales are true, most are harmless — and at least one described here is dangerous.
Tales About Pregnancy
If the fetal heart rate is under 140 beats per minute (BPM), it's a boy.
False. A baby girl's heart rate is usually faster than a boy's, but only after the onset of labor. There's no difference between fetal heart rates for boys and girls, but the rate does vary with the age of the fetus. By approximately the fifth week of pregnancy, the fetal heart rate is near the mother's — around 80 to 85 BPM. It continues to accelerate until early in the ninth week, when it reaches 170 to 200 BPM and then decelerates to an average of 120 to 160 BPM by the middle of the pregnancy. Normal fetal heart rate during labor ranges from 120 to 160 BPM for boys and girls.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
© 1995-2009 The Nemours Foundation. All rights reserved.
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