Not so very long ago, Seth Stephens-Davidowitz earned a PhD in economics from Harvard University and landed a gig as op-ed contributor to the New York Times. In a recent piece that puts a new spin on an age-old question — “What Do Pregnant Women Want?” — he writes that many of his friends are pregnant and he thought he had “a pretty good idea of what pregnancy entails.”

Stephens-Davidowitz turned to Google to test his pregnancy knowledge and found out “much of what I thought about pregnancy was wrong, and that pregnancy plays out very differently around the world.”  As he was Googling pregnancy around the world, here are some of the interesting tidbits that turned up.

Pregnant with computer

Pregnancy Safety - Food, Beverages, etc.

In the US, pregnant women want to know if they can eat shrimp, drink wine, drink coffee, and take Tylenol during pregnancy. Women in Australia, Britain, and Australia aren’t so concerned about those things. Top 10 searches in those nations focus more on eating dairy products, especially cream cheese. Nigerian women want to know if it’s safe to drink cold water. Mexican women rarely ask about food and drink during pregnancy; their most common question is about wearing high heels during pregnancy.

Pregnancy How-Tos

A search for “how to _______ during pregnancy?” was all about preventing stretch marks in Australia, Canada, and the US. In Nigeria, not so much. There, top how-to questions searched concerned how to have sex and how to sleep.

Sexual Desires

When a pregnant woman in India tells Google “my husband wants _______,” she’s most likely to fill in the blank with “me to breastfeed him.” When the Indian search term is “how to” or “my husband,” again, it’s all about breastfeeding him. Top two searches for “my husband wants” from the US are “to share me” and “to be a woman.”

Boys and Girls

Questions originating in South Korea are 6.6 times more likely to ask about how to conceive a son rather than a daughter. People in the US who search in the Korean language only ask about conceiving boys 3.5 times more often than conceiving girls. The boy:girl query ratio in general in the US is 1.2:1.

Expectant Fathers

When a woman gets pregnant, the father-to-be is expecting, too. And he’s Googling. When Stephens-Davidowitz used the search term “my pregnant wife,” he found clear cultural differences between neighboring nations.

Searched in Mexico:

  • “Frases de amor para mi esposa embarazada” (phrases of love for my pregnant wife)
  • “Poemas para mi esposa embarazada (poems for my pregnant wife)

Searched in the US:

  • “My wife is pregnant now what”
  • “My wife is pregnant what do I do”

Stephens-Davidowitz’s Google experiment doesn’t stop here. He discovered what foods the pregnant women of the world are craving, what they dream about, and which pregnancy symptoms puzzle them the most. And he observes that, even though the biology of pregnancy is the same the world over, our interpretations of it certainly are not.

Source: Stephens-Davidowitz, Seth. “What Do Pregnant Women Want?” The New York Times. The New York Times Company. May 17, 2014. Web. Jun 4, 2014.

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