Dear pregnant woman — you don’t need that

Dara Squires
Published on July 30, 2014

Every day on various parenting groups and websites, I come across posts from pregnant women asking for advice on which model of breast pump to buy, where to find a secondhand home fetal heart monitor, if such and such designer car seat is available locally, what nursing bras are best, what gender neutral nursery decors other parents recommend or how many body pillows do they really need?

The answer to that last one, by the way, is zero. Body pillows are up there with thigh masters as one of the world’s most ridiculous inventions. Yet, I remember being told during my first pregnancy that I needed one.

I remember spending money I could just barely afford and time that would’ve been better spent going for a nice walk, trying to find one that was affordable and then trying to select a removable, washable cover for it (because they don’t come with the cover, of course, that would make too much sense).

My husband at the time tried to tell me I didn’t need it. I decided to listen to the three or four pregnant women plus the multitude of articles and posts that told me I did instead. Turns out my ex was right.

The pillow that was bought so that I could sleep comfortably with my legs separated and my belly and back supported caused more sleepless nights than the back and hip pain I was experiencing. I imagine if I slept like an enchanted princess — utterly still — it might have worked better, but even then I found it too squishy to offer the supposed support.

It was soon after replaced with three cheap Wal-Mart pillows from the $5 bin which were also brought to the hospital to supplement the flat pillows and to sit on after birth, used as nursing pillows in the early days, placed around the baby as he learned to roll, bundled around the baby as he learned to sit up and used as guest pillows.

And they didn’t require a special cover that didn’t fit any other pillows either.

The thing that upsets me most about all these ridiculous things women are told they need during pregnancy is that they really do upset women and cause us to waste money that would be better spent on anything else ... like perhaps a RESP.

There’s not a single woman in the world who needs a home fetal heart monitor. I can understand, especially for a woman who’s experiencing a high-risk pregnancy or who has had a past miscarriage, why they may think it’s necessary.

But this is definitely one of those times when you need to learn to listen to your body.

Most people don’t know how to use one correctly — a large number of women are likely listening to their own pulse, not the baby’s heart. And a large number of women are getting concerned when they can’t find either.

Personally, my babies hated ultrasounds and home fetal heart monitors, getting stressed every time I had one at the doctor’s office. Though mostly safe in terms of potential physical damage, many doctors do recognize that the ultrasound waves can stress a baby. And with overuse there is potential that actual physical damage can occur too — causing the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to issue a warning against home use of the devices back in 2008.

The thing is, by buying a device that promises to do something concrete to keep your mind at ease and your child safe, you tend to let down your guard a little.

There have been many documented cases of women who felt something might be wrong with their pregnancy but reassured themselves with their fetal heart monitor who have later ended up in the emergency room with pregnancy complications or stillbirth. These women felt their body telling them something, sometimes days before their visit to the hospital, but relied on a device they likely weren’t using properly but were told was safe and easy to use, to reassure them rather than visit their doctor.

I’m sure there are many women on the other side of the coin as well, who have used a home fetal heart monitor, been unable to find a heartbeat and put themselves into a frenzy of panic, rushing to the doctor to get their baby checked when there was nothing wrong. While this is a waste of healthcare dollars, in this scenario the home heart monitor is like the body pillow — a ridiculous waste of money, if not tragic.

From the inane to the insane, devices and products marketed to pregnant women are mostly useless, sometimes tragic and entirely unnecessary. The only things a pregnant woman needs are vitamins and clothes to accommodate the growing belly. And ice cream. Don’t forget the ice cream.

You can comment on this column or access previous editions of Readily A Parent using the following short link: