The birth and rapid growth of the internet and social media has forever changed how people communicate with each other, especially those going through similar experiences such as pregnancy. It used to be that a pregnant woman would rely on her family, friends, acquaintances and, most importantly, her doctor for advice. Since the explosion of the internet, women now have access to all the information they ever wanted and then some. Social media and online forums have allowed for groups of people with similar interests or experiences, who otherwise may feel isolated, to establish a pseudo-community. These forums and chat rooms have especially become a social support system for mothers during pregnancy and beyond according to this study.
Pregnancy Forums, Chat Rooms and Facebook Groups
Expectant mothers often have many questions and don’t feel like they have friends in a similar situation to turn to for support and information. First-time mothers experience their bodies changing in ways unknown to them and seek the support from those going through the same experience or who have gone through it before. Today the internet is exploding with social media groups and online website and forums where expectant and postpartum mothers can share their pregnancy and birthing experiences with each other. Threads like “How can I discourage strangers from touching my belly?”, “I miscarried a couple of months ago and just found out I am pregnant again and am so worried”, “Did you birth without epidural?”, and “Ovarian cyst removal during pregnancy: Is it safe?”, present personal anecdotal accounts and give out advice freely.
Some pregnancy groups on Facebook have over a million members! Facebook is a forum of funny videos and memes, personal stories and warnings and for pregnant women to support each other. Due-date groups exist for women expecting around the same time to connect with each other. Local groups also exist to connect mothers in the same area.
Why Turn To The Internet?
You probably don’t remember everything from your high school sex-ed or biology class. Though there are many great resources out there, you may not want to buy and read through every pregnancy book. Or perhaps you just want first-hand experiences. Many women find that their health and pain concerns are not taken seriously by professionals and find solace in turning to women in similar situations. Also, visits to the doctors can add up and given that depending on insurance, pregnancy and birth can be quite costly. Forums help foster a sense of community. Women give each other advice and support that is comforting and helps many not feel alone.
What To Avoid Asking Online and When To See Your Doctor
It is important to be mindful of what you post online and what kind of advice you seek out. There are certain questions only a qualified obstetrician can answer for you. Questions about how your prescription medications will affect your pregnancy, genetic testing, and health concerns should be saved for your doctor. While information is constantly at our fingertips, often we should seek out professional for specific medical queries.
Online communities can be extremely supportive and helpful. However, if you are experiencing symptoms that are worrisome, you should close your computer/tablet/phone and call your doctor. At the end of the day only your OB can give you thorough advice, taking into account your entire health history. It is important to use your OB as a resource for your questions. Go ahead and ask online about what smoothies will boost your energy the most, which prenatal vitamin doesn’t cause constipation or why you choose to birth naturally. Those questions you can also bring to your OB, but reserve serious and complicated questions about your health and the health of your unborn child for a discussion at your next appointment. You should also properly follow up with your doctor after pregnancy to discuss the warning signs for postpartum depression.