One major initial question that came up for me when I was pregnant was a common one: What could I get away with ingesting and still be regarded as a person growing a healthy baby? Deli turkey? Occasional glass of wine? How many cheese cubes make you a bad mother?
After that is was probably how much weight I would gain/could gain and then how hard would it be to lose it. What do you want? I'm a product of my culture. It was hard to find out because no one really knows anything, I don't care how smart we think we are.
And of course, the Internet says different things. Doctors say different things. And different cultures say different things. And people are different. Those contradictions can be maddening, but the different cultural approaches to pregnancy can be a particularly fascinating and extra-maddening revelation for mothers-to-be, because how can it be bad for you to eat sushi when Japanese women do so throughout their pregnancy? How can it be that big a deal to have a glass of wine when French pregos drink up? How can it be so risky to eat spicy foods when some cultures' entire cuisines are built around peppers?
If you're like me and you find intense satisfaction in upending such assumptions, then you will enjoy this roundup of the different Google searches by country from pregnant women and the men associated with them (here in handy visual form). In it you learn that some aspects of pregnancy are universal, but many are totally random/cultural/hilarious.
It turns out pregnant women everywhere pretty much crave the same types of flavor experiences, even if from different foods: In the U.S., the top search is about craving ice. Following that, it's " salt, sweets, fruit and spicy food." Australian preggers wanted salt, sweets, chocolate, ice, and fruit. India preferred spicy foods first, then sweets, chocolate, salt, ice cream.
Where we differ more comes down to basically culturally driven expectations of pregnant women. Search constructs examined were "How to ______ during pregnancy" and "Can pregnant women _________?"
American ladies wanted to know can they still eat shrimp, drink wine, drink coffee, or take Tylenol. In Mexico, it's can they have coffee, sex, tea, beer, and whether it's ok or not to still wear heels. However, Canada, Australia, and Britain's ladies-with-child weren't as concerned about alcohol consumption, either because they already have a satisfactory answer or are constitutionally transcendent. British breeders most wanted to know if they could eat prawns, smoked salmon, cheesecake, mozzarella or mayo. Australia: cream cheese, prawns, bacon, sour cream, feta. Nigeria: Cold water, wine, coffee, sex, moringa, which is a plant you can eat. India: pizza, mango, banana, sex, papaya. Yes. Papaya.
Who among us whether pregnant or not doesn't now crave a bacon prawn sour cream feta pizza thing with mango banana papaya sex on top? For what it's worth, Brazilian women had no questions in the top five about food. They wanted to know if they could dye their hair, ride a bike, or fly, which makes them more enigmatic than us, as if we didn't already know.
The author of the piece, economics Ph.D. Seth Stephens-Davidowitz of Harvard, who looked at anonymous Google search data from 20 countries, says:
Interestingly, the huge differences in questions posed around the world have only a small amount to do with different diets. They are most likely caused by the overwhelming flood of information coming from disparate sources in each country: legitimate scientific studies, so-so scientific studies, old wives' tales and neighborhood chatter. It is difficult for women to know what to focus on — or what to Google.
And if you think that difficulty is only true for women, just consider what dudes in different countries Googled about pregnancy when it was happening to their significant other. In Mexico, they wanted to know words of love or poems of love to say to their pregnant ladies. Awwww. In the U.S.? Umm.
In the United States, the top searches include "my wife is pregnant now what" and "my wife is pregnant what do I do."
Now what, indeed, Ameri-bro. Meanwhile, back on planet Knows What to Do Now, women in the U.S. are busy searching for how prevent stretch marks and weight gain and stay fit, because post-baby celebrity body yadda yadda. But making sure you can still have sex or get some freaking sleep is more important to women in India, Nigeria, and Ghana, and now I envy them for not caring about stretch marks. These are India's top five how-to's: "sleep," "do sex," "have sex," "sex," and "take care." Very sex.
I'll just leave this one right here:
In India, the top search, by far, beginning "my husband wants" is "my husband wants me to breastfeed him."
Another interesting facet of the searches was that the author was able to get a sense of cultural assimilation in action via pregnancy. He examined the foreign-language searches of people living in the U.S. Apparently Spanish-language Google queries here reveal searches for the same things primarily English speakers care about — whether they can eat shrimp or drink wine while knocked up.
Ultimately, the author finds that physical aspects of pregnancy — the aches, the pains, the bullshit — are every woman's cross to bear no matter where she breeds, as is the desire to eat all possible things except the ones that now suddenly and inexplicably make you violently ill. What distinguishes us, he concludes, is how we interpret what it all means, what to do, what to avoid, all depending on the arbitrary location into which we were born. Which means it's high time someone wrote Which Country to Visit to Still Eat _______ While Pregnant.