Thanks to new research by Harvard PhD Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, it is now possible to reveal just what pregnant women all across the world worry about the most. The results give a fascinating insight into differing cultural attitudes and concerns when it comes to carrying a baby.
Processing data from searches collated in over 20 countries, Stephens-Davidowitz found the most similarities with symptoms. Women everywhere have the same issues with back pain and morning sickness.
It was the questions beginning with “how to” and “can I?” that threw up widely divergent perplexities. In India, a top search is the curious conundrum of “how to breastfeed my husband?” Mexican woman are wondering if it is OK to wear high heels, and Nigerian women don’t know if it is safe to drink cold water.
The US, Australian and Canadian mothers-to-be are more anxious about stretch marks and how to prevent them. British women fear not being able to lose baby weight, but two and three on their top five are also the prevention and avoidance of stretch marks. This does not seem to feature on the average expectant Indian lady’s radar. She is more pre-occupied with how to “do sex,” “have sex” and simply “sex.”
Partners everywhere may be gratified to find that sex is not forgotten as pregnancy advances, far from it, and not just in India. Nearly every country has “how to have sex” as a top pregnancy question and it only get overtaken in the “can I?” sections by all the various taboos about what is and is not safe to consume.
Dairy products, especially raw, with the threat of listeria infection, bother the Brits and Aussies who want to eat cream cheese, sour cream and feta, not to mention cheesecake, mozzarella and mayonnaise. Americans really want to eat shrimp and drink wine, but should they? In India, they want to eat mango, banana and papaya which sounds a lot healthier, but maybe that is just to give them energy to “have sex” again, which makes its way back into their lists.
Singaporeans and Mexicans want to drink coffee, Spanish baby bumps want to sunbathe and Brazilian ladies are keen to dye their hair and ride a bike. In Germany, the big question is it safe to go in the sauna and to eat salami, possibly even at the same time.
Sigmund Freud asked “What do women want?” but Seth Stephens-Davidowitz has answered “What do pregnant women want?” Many of the cravings have the same basis. Foods that are icy, spicy, salty or sweet. Most realise that it’s wise to steer away from alcohol, but like to check if the odd glass will do any harm. The disparity in the searches is when they throw up wide variants.
Stephens-Davidowitz does not put this down to different country’s dietary habits, but rather to the different streams of information that pregnant women receive or are exposed to. Some of this will be official and governmental, often it will be hereditary in the form of “old wive’s tales.”
He does not come up with any evidence that any one country has “got it right” with how to handle pregnancy or alleviate some of its discomforts. No country, he says has “stumbled upon a diet or environment” that “drastically reduces” any symptom of pregnancy. The mining of Google for data is still a new field, and it is yet to be established how pertinent such analysis can be in regards to cultural or health concerns. One fascinating detail which transcended the many differences was the extent to which all people dream of pregnancy. In fact, it is on the top five reported dreams pretty much everywhere.
As one writer has noted, pregnant woman are quite right to worry. It is their way of being responsible, well-informed, and focused on the well-being of their new baby. However, in the age of the internet, this can lead to another new condition of pregnancy, excessive “Gestational Googlemania.”
Other tender and funny facts thrown up by the research were the most asked questions by the partners of pregnant women. In Mexico this is “frases de amor para mi esposa embrazada” or “words of love for my expectant wife.” In the United States, it was, “my wife is pregnant what do I do.”
Pregnant women all over the world have plenty of realistic and reasonable worries, it is both sweet and salutary to see that they are often the same, and yet, often as different, as the women themselves.
By Kate Henderson