14/08/2014 16:46 BST | Updated 22/05/2015 10:12 BST

Just Because You're Pregnant, Please Don't Lose Your Common Sense

Just because you're pregnant, please don't lose your common sense

Life's too short to stuff a mushroom, as someone famous (I think it was Shirley Conran) once said. Well, if you ask me, life's too short to peel a mushroom.

But that's exactly what I found myself doing the other evening at the request of my pregnant friend, a guest at my house who worried that eating the (scrubbed to within an inch of its life) casing of a soil-grown vegetable would harm her unborn baby.

As I painstakingly removed the stubborn skin of mushroom number 28, I wondered when pregnancy had become so life-threateningly risky.

These days, you don't need to look far to find every kind of pregnancy scaremongering imaginable.

If you do happen to be 'with child', you'd do well to avoid the internet. A quick search for 'pregnancy risks' throws up such diktats as 'avoid cats', 'don't eat fish', 'stay away from microwaves' and (my personal favourite) 'avoid drinking tap water'.


So, as well as looking and feeling like a giant weeble, pregnant women are now being told to ban a vital source of nutrition from their diet, chuck out handy cooking equipment, run away from felines, and blow the shopping budget on overpriced bottled drinks.


Much of the advice stinks. And the doom mongers peddling this hype are dangerous because they tap into primal, deep-seated fears felt by those experiencing the biggest biological change of their life (complete with mind-altering hormones).

I've known erstwhile make-up queens to go barefaced for the full nine months for fear of poisoning their foetus, and full-on sporty types to barely move from the sofa in case their baby's damaged by movement.

My friend Sheila sums it up. "I was very paranoid when pregnant," she said. "I wouldn't even eat mints because I read that peppermint oil is dangerous.

"I also remember getting people to confirm they didn't feel ill before I'd visit them in case of swine flu. Oh, and I spent £20 on what was basically a bit of velcro to keep my car seatbelt off my bump.

"There's way too much information available these days. I'd have been better off in blissful ignorance."

Ah, the curse of the social networking generation. A quick poll on Twitter uncovered one mum whose pregnancy confessions included vacuuming under the floorboards, and repainting an entire six-bedroomed house in soya-based eco emulsions to avoid chemicals.


Another mum admitted to only watching Eastenders with subtitles, not sound, lest her unborn became stressed by the shouting.


These are real women. Short of taping themselves in bubble wrap, listening to a looped CD of whale music, and sitting motionless in a sterile chamber, there's not much some mums won't do to protect the contents of their wombs.

But instead of succumbing to irrational, hormone-induced antics, here's an idea. Why not ignore the alarmist hype and make intelligent judgements, like the rest of us who managed a fuss-free gestation?

If I'd listened to my well-meaning yet overprotective father when pregnant with my second, I'd have missed out on seeing my daughter feed a lamb at a farm park (dad was worried that standing in the same field as a newborn sheep would cause irreversible damage).

And had I followed the advice of an acquaintance at a party, I'd have banned my customary long baths, and probably increased my pregnancy stress levels in the process.

I fear that the media glare on a certain pregnant royal will only worsen the situation. Headlines about Kate risking miscarriage simply by sipping a caffeinated coffee, or dicing with the future heir's health by wearing the same maternity dress twice are surely only a trimester away.

My friend Jenny is with me on this one. "I carried on playing lacrosse and tennis during my pregnancy," she said.

"My philosophy was listen to your body, and get out and do as much as you feel like doing."

It's about a sensible, level headed approach. I'm not advocating taking stupid risks when pregnant. It makes perfect sense not to inhale cigarette smoke or glug your usual Friday night bottle of wine.

But ladies, you're pregnant, not diseased. Do us all a favour and, instead of acting on your baby-brained neuroses, apply a little common sense. That mushroom won't kill you.

More on Parentdish: Sensible (not neurotic) health advice