Pregnancy Myths a Cultural Phenomenon: What Do You Believe About Pregnancy?

The Rosy Tint of Pregnancy Mythology

Pregnant women should share uncomfortable experiences. Image by jdurham

Pregnant women should share uncomfortable experiences, so others aren’t so surprised when the same thing happens to them. Image by jdurham

Still, what women have soaked up from their culture about pregnancy tends to have a rosy tint.  In her interview with Decoded Pregnancy, Bessette explained, “Overall, pregnancy mythologies tended to be romanticized, and women tended to be surprised by more unpleasant or painful pregnancy symptoms.”  Bessette notes the rosy myths persisted despite the fact that the media is more likely to focus on problems in pregnancy.

Some topics were more common in cultural myths retold by women, such as nausea and cravings. Others, Bessette noted in her press release, such as  “… exhaustion, insomnia, gas, headaches and swollen ankles weren’t as popularly linked or discussed.”

She speculates that pregnancy side-effects like hemorrhoids, were not discussed in either the media or by family and friends because they were involved parts of the body not considered polite to discuss.

Pregnancy Expectations: Unexpected Research Results

Dr. Bessett herself was surprised by the amount of mythology contributing to women’s expectations about pregnancy.  She explained to Decoded Pregnancy, “previous survey research has established that women turn to their health care providers, pregnancy guides, or websites when they have specific questions about their pregnancies, but what I found was that women brought a host of other impressions that they accumulated over their lifetime. This was an unexpected finding of a larger project about women’s experiences of pregnancy.”

Myths in Pregnancy: Implications of the Research

Bessette told Decoded Pregnancy that the rosy nature of pregnancy mythology concerns her not only because it may lead to unrealistic expectations for individual women, but “at a broader social level–it also may contribute to an erosion of policies that can support and accommodate women’s varied reproductive experiences because we imagine pregnancy is easier than it is for some women.”  She continued, “women are getting partial, romanticized messages about pregnancy experiences without realizing it.”

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The “consequences of this are profound, from how we treat mothers who express those difficulties to how we accommodate pregnant women in the workplace.  We put so much pressure on mothers not to complain…I do not think that pregnancy is a “disability”; it is an amazing capacity of women.  But women also need to have their concerns taken seriously, and that can only happen if we are all better educated about what to expect in pregnancy.”

Speak Candidly About Pregnancy: For the Sake of Other Moms

Pregnancy myths may be fun, but there are parts of pregnancy that can be difficult for some women, such as extreme morning sickness. As a group, women can help each other by speaking candidly about pregnancy, and supporting policies that accommodate pregnant women who may be struggling.


Fowler, Daniel. Cultural Mythologies Strongly Influence Women’s Expectations About Being PregnantAmerican Sociological Association. Accessed September 16, 2013.

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