Red ribbons or safety pins? Examining (bogus) eclipse 'warnings' for pregnant women

Great American Eclipse is upon us Aug. 21


(GMG) – Anyone who’s ever been pregnant, or who’s had a pregnant wife, sister or close cousin, probably already knows: Expecting moms hear some pretty crazy stuff. A lot of the advice is either conflicting, or it can’t possibly be scientifically based, or it makes you wonder what’s true and what’s an old wives' tale.

For example: “You’re carrying low. It must be a boy!”

“You have morning sickness? It’s definitely a girl.”

“Never sleep on your right side.” ... “Only sleep on your left side.” ... “No, only sleep on your back.”

“Be careful! Spicy food makes you go into labor.”

“I heard a big Italian dinner makes you go into labor.”

Phew! It can be exhausting.

With the total solar eclipse upon us -- the first one to grace the continental United States since 1979 and the first to run from sea to shining sea since 1918, passing through 14 states -- it seemed only appropriate to look up all the crazy things pregnant women have been told regarding eclipses.

Needless to say, BabyCenter didn’t disappoint.

A 2012 story about pregnancy and solar eclipse superstitions brought many omens to the surface -- and then the article solicited comments from readers at the end, asking pregnant mothers what the craziest things not yet mentioned in the story exactly entailed.

Here’s what they gathered:

Pregnant women "should" …

--Wear red and some kind of metal in order to protect the baby.

Some superstitions specifically recommend wearing red underwear or undergarments. Others say you need to attach a red ribbon to your shirt, preferably near your belly button. Want to kill two birds with one stone? Use a safety pin to fasten the ribbon to your shirt, and then you’ve included the “correct” color and an appropriate metal into your attire. Or pin a key to your clothes to involve two kinds of metal. Legend has it that these practices guard against birth defects such as a cleft palate.

The Aztecs thought that an eclipse was a bite on the face of the moon, according to BabyCenter. If a mother watched the "bite," the same thing would happen to her baby (you know, allegedly). So for protection, the mother is warned to carry something metallic, such as a safety pin, and wear it close to her unborn child. Got it?

--Lie down flat during the eclipse.

It’s not clear where this belief comes from, but at least one mother was told that her baby would be born with birth defects if she failed to follow certain procedures. One of those involved lying down flat on a bed and not moving until the eclipse was over. Some superstitious people will even advise keeping something metallic underneath a pillow nearby, such as scissors -- perhaps to guard against that Aztec “bite” on the moon? We may never know.

--Not go outside. Not touch your stomach.

Or the baby might suffer “abnormalities,” whatever that means.

--Not keep any sharp objects around.

We’re not quite sure where this one came from, or the previous superstitions. This one kind of goes against the whole safety pin, keys or scissors thing, doesn’t it?

--Not touch anything magnetic.

The idea is (well, take this with a grain of salt like you would anything else on this list), the moon works with magnets, allegedly, and during an eclipse, if a woman is pregnant and she touches a magnet, she then becomes a conductor who can attract positive or negative energy.

--Be careful if you’re approaching your due date.

As superstition will tell you, there will be a lot of women delivering their babies on the day of an eclipse, due to the changes in atmosphere. (Yeah, OK).

So now we'll ask you: Are there any superstitions you've heard that we missed? We'd love to read about them in the comments below.

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