NEW YORK CITY Morning sickness, shiny hair, and bizarre and intense cravings for pickles and ice cream what expectations do pregnant women impose on their bodies, and how are those expectations influenced by cultural perspectives on pregnancy?
Danielle Bessett, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Cincinnati, will present her research on this issue at the 108th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association.
Although previous studies have indicated that women primarily rely on their health care providers and pregnancy guides to find out what to expect when they're expecting, Bessett's research, titled, "Expecting Embodiment: Pregnancy Symptoms and the Cultural Mythologies of Pregnancy," found that pregnant women are also strongly influenced about their pregnancies by common hearsay in their social circles and in entertainment media. Bessett calls this phenomenon "pregnancy mythologies" fragmentary, contradictory, and elusive forms of knowledge.
The study relied on interviews with 64 pregnant women in the greater New York metropolitan area from 2003-2006. Bessett noted that all 64 women confronted mythologies in pregnancy.
"In contrast to survey research that asks women to identify information sources that help them make specific decisions, in-depth interviews such as mine reveal a more complex web of taken-for-granted assumptions that women bring to pregnancy a condition commonly represented in both fictional and reality television, films, commercials, and other entertainment media," Bessett said. "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. It is important to recognize this phenomenon because it may result in different perspectives on what we can take for granted about pregnancy which may
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American Sociological Association