-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas
SATURDAY, Aug. 10 (HealthDay News) -- Pregnant women's
expectations about the changes they will face -- from morning
sickness and shiny hair to peculiar food cravings -- are not only
influenced by their doctors and nurses, but also by what they hear
from their friends and find in the media, a new study says.
These "pregnancy mythologies" may affect what women take for
granted in pregnancy and could influence the communication between
them and their health care providers, the study suggests.
The findings are scheduled for presentation Saturday at the
American Sociological Association's annual meeting, in New York
Danielle Bessett, an assistant professor of sociology at the
University of Cincinnati, interviewed 64 pregnant women living in
and around New York City from 2003 to 2006. About half of the
participants were expecting their first child, while others had
complicated reproductive histories. All of the participants
received prenatal care. Of the group, 23 received care from public,
hospital-based clinics, while the other women were patients at
After conducting the interviews, Bessett found all 64 women
faced cultural hearsay about being pregnant, or what she dubbed
"My research shows that we may underestimate the extent to which all of us hold understandings of pregnancy built incrementally through a succession of ephemeral encounters over our lifetimes and the extent to which those understandings affect us," Bessett said in an ASA news release.
Although many of the women interviewed denied that cultural
hearsay was an information source they trusted, they often cited
entertainment or media sources when asked to explain why they had
certain expectations for what would happen during pregnancy.
Bessett also noted some women relied heavily on their
ethnic-religious traditions. In some cases, women had no
explanation for how they learned what to expect during
Some women became concerned about the health of their fetus when
they did not experience the side effects and symptoms commonly
associated with pregnancy, such as morning sickness, the study
Bessett said that pregnancy symptoms are not just a side effect
of pregnancy since women connect their symptoms to the desires,
needs or personal characteristics of their unborn baby. For
instance, one mother believed she developed intense morning
sickness because her baby didn't like the food she ate.
Certain pregnancy-related symptoms, such as exhaustion,
insomnia, gas, headaches, and swollen ankles, weren't as commonly
linked to cultural influences. It could be that these side effects
involve less openly discussed topics and are less frequently
portrayed in the media, Bessett said.
About half of the women involved in the study were white, 12
were black, 16 were Hispanic, and two were Asian. One-third of the
women reported household incomes of less than $40,000; just under
half reported household incomes of at least $80,000.
Because this study was presented at a medical meeting, the data
and conclusions should be viewed as preliminary until published in
a peer-reviewed journal.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has more about
side effects of pregnancy.
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