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It Turns Out Pregnancy Might Be Contagious After All

6350019019_2ffd0e4715_z-624x416.jpgThe other day on Facebook, one of my expecting friends posted a picture of herself posed alongside a bunch of her also-pregnant co-workers.

Don’t drink the water! the picture was captioned.

I chuckled as I scrolled, shaking my head because it seems so true, doesn’t it? It seems like every time one of the women in my close-knit group of family and friends is pregnant, the rest seem to follow. I have my own picture of five of us in our family, lined up in order of expectancy. (Unfortunately, I wasn’t first, but I was the biggest …)

Pregnancy is feared to be contagious, with women who have passed the miraculous wear-’n’-tear of babyhood shaking their hands and backing away from those of us bearing bellies bigger than a small planet. “No, no, no,” they say, “don’t you bring those pregnancy vibes this way!”

And as it turns out, they could be right.

A new study, co-authored by Nicoletta Balbo and Nicola Barba, appeared in the June issue of the American Sociological Review and found that pregnancy is indeed “contagious.”

More specifically, pregnancy is contagious between high school female friends through early adulthood — a phenomenon that I’m certain Facebook could attest to. In a statement that I found almost horrifying, study co-author Nicoletta Balbo, a sociologist at Bocconi University, said that the results showed that “high school friends impact our lives well after graduation.”

So much for that whole “leaving high school behind” theory. (Although I guess I’m not one to talk, considering I did marry my high school sweetheart …)

The study used data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health that surveyed teens back in 1996 and again in 2008-2009 on lifestyle, friends, family, health, and obviously, pregnancies. The results from the survey found that tendencies toward getting pregnant goes a little something like this: A high school friend gets pregnant, you start to consider it, your likelihood of conceiving peaks within two years of your friend having a baby, and then your own pregnancy window starts to decline after the two-year peak.

So why do we do it?

It may be a little of keeping with the Jones’, but researchers also speculate that it’s more of a natural progression and result of having friends with similar lifestyles to our own. There’s the pressure of having kids, the role progression and feeling of not wanting to be left out, and there’s a desire to stay friends, all of which may have an impact on a woman’s decision to have a baby.  Other theories suggest that it may be cost-effective for women to “cluster” pregnancies, sharing baby-related items or swapping babysitting duties.

“We know that friends influence each other on many behaviors, such as smoking, drinking, and how much we exercise,” Balbo explained in a press release. So pregnancy might just be one of those lifestyle behaviors that others influence us on, whether or not we are aware of that influence.

Now, if I tell you that I am pregnant with baby No. 4 — who wants to come share a glass of water with me?

 

Image via Trocaire/Flickr

 

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