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Heartburn and hairy babies - an old wives' tale

Is it true that pregnant women who have heartburn during pregnancy will have babies with full heads of hair? Dr Fiona McGuire looks into this old wives' tale.

Published: 21 October 2019

Baby with full head of hair
Baby with full head of hair

Doctors often hear all sorts of old wives' tales when it comes to pregnancy and babies.

Old wives' tales are superstitious stories. They get passed down through the generations. They become such a traditional belief that so many people believe them.

But often they're not true. They may not be based on any facts at all.

You might have heard an old wives' tales around inducing labour. Or there's one about predicting the gender of your baby.

Another links heartburn and hairy babies. The story is that women who have heartburn during pregnancy will have babies with full heads of hair.

Heartburn

Heartburn is an unpleasant pregnancy symptom. It causes a burning feeling in the chest or throat.

Read about heartburn and indigestion in pregnancy.

But there's very little published data linking it to the amount of hair on a baby’s head! That's not to say there isn't any published data out there.

Newborn with hair
Newborn baby with hair

Research study into this old wives' tale

In 2006, US researchers looked into this old wives' tale. Their study at John Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore involved 64 pregnant women.

They asked each of the women to rank how bad their heartburn was during the pregnancy.

Another group of researchers looked at the amount of hair on the heads of their newborn babies. They also ranked them using photographs.

The researchers found that of the 28 women who had heartburn, 23 had babies with plentiful hair.

The researchers think they know why this happened.

Hormones are released during pregnancy to relax a muscle in the stomach. Researchers think that this hormone may also control a baby's hair growth.

But that's just one study. Whether others will report similar findings remains to be seen.

But one thing is for sure, for most women their heartburn is ‘hair today, gone tomorrow' after the birth.

Related topic

What newborns look like