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Pop Culture Impacts Your Pregnancy Expectations More Than You Think

Study says pop culture impacts our pregnancy expectations more than anything.
Photograph by Getty Images/BananaStock RF

Before you were pregnant, you probably had a few mental images tucked away of what it would all be like. Let us guess: they involved spending the first three months trying not to hurl in public and the rest of it devouring bowls of pickles and ice cream at night.

Familiar picture, huh? What you probably didn't anticipate are all those other little symptoms that don't make their way into Rom Coms. We're talking about things like wicked hemorrhoids, persistent pregnancy gas, and swollen ankles like you've never seen before. (Well okay, that last one may have been brought to light recently thanks to Kim Kardashian and her unfortunate gladiator sandal decision.)

According to a new study reported by LiveScience, the ideas we have in our heads of what pregnancy will really be like are mostly shaped by pop culture — what we watch on TV, see in the movies, or hear about from crazy family stories. Maybe that first part's not so surprising, given our need to consume media at incredible rates these days. But it is a tad alarming when you consider this fact: while most women in the study said their healthcare providers were their most trusted sources for pregnancy information, a lot of the preconceptions they had about it stemmed from pop culture (and a little family lure). What's more, when many of the women didn't experience those commonly talked about symptoms first-hand, they feared something might be wrong with their baby.

The study, which analyzed the responses of 64 women in the New York City area from 2003 to 2006, factored in respondents of varying backgrounds, socioeconomic statuses, and experiences. Each woman was interviewed at least twice — before and after she gave birth.

"In a lot of cases, [women in the study] brought all these expectations from a lifetime of exposure to stories and other advice and family tales" to their pregnancies, said Danielle Bessett of the University of Cincinnati, Ohio. Bessett, who led the study, presented her findings at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association on August 10, and said that the significant gap between what women thought pregnancy would be like and how it really all went down was pretty surprising.

In general, Bessett told LiveScience, "women seemed to have a romanticized view of pregnancy."

Some even cited their weird symptoms to the needs or desires of the fetus, all due to Old Wives' Tales. One apparently pinned her fried chicken craving on the fact that her baby liked it. (Nice move, there.) Another said her severe vomiting was caused by her baby's dislike of what she ate.

At any rate, we can take a wild guess here and say that the reason no one knows the whole story about pregnancy symptoms (or at least the reasons behind all the gross stuff) is because... well, nobody wants to talk about them — hence the sugar-coating and talk of things like a pregnancy glow or funny cravings instead. (To whomever spread that "glow" rumor, we'd like to have a word...) But still, for all the future moms-to-be out there, it seems only fair we paint a more truthful picture, no?

What "common" pregnancy symptoms did you expect to get, but never did?

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