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Social media and pregnancy

The pressure of “doing it right”

Author Dr Tony Fordham
Categories   Second Trimester

The Edit

Do you know why there isn’t just one pregnancy manual? Because every single woman has a completely unique experience. There’s no ‘one-size-fits-all’. 

The advent of social media has influenced all aspects of 21st century living.

Every pregnancy is different, and that includes differences between the first and subsequent pregnancies. This is one of the many things that make women so wonderfully fantastic. First time mums must navigate this whole new and strange biological experience that has never happened to them – sometimes alone, sometimes with conflicting advice, and often without an all-knowing pregnancy almanac.

The advent and upsurgence of social media has influenced all aspects of 21st century living, with pregnancy and motherhood being no exception. We’ve become obsessed with seeing how others move through these new experiences and want them to become shared experiences, because a problem shared is a problem halved, right?

Sometimes seeing somebody else’s journey through social media does not create as positive a feeling as the original content-creator had intended. Painting a picture of skipping through a field of lavender while heavily pregnant may leave some women feeling despondent.

Just like any other content on social media, pregnancy-related matter brings a certain pressure and expectation to women and their families. The reason for this may well be that some women have pregnancies that do not entirely follow the laminated birth plan. The majority of pregnancies are complicated by symptoms such as nausea, fatigue, pain, haemorrhoids and low mood.

Some women purely exist through pregnancy, and some women thrive, as if they were born to do nothing but be infinitely pregnant. These same women may then come to their second child and have a completely different experience and wonder ‘what have I done wrong, why is this so different to the first?’ So, with this in mind is anybody to blame for this additional pressure that women feel? Or is it a side effect of living in today’s society?

Women already place so much undue pressure on themselves during pregnancy. When I see women in clinic and the main issues have been addressed, they often then reveal other concerns that play on their minds. For example, last week they felt too tired to attend the pregnancy exercise class/mum’s group/antenatal workshop/dinner with friends.

The worry is there must be a medical reason why they are not able to compete with the other mothers they see around them or on social media. In reality, there is rarely a biological reason that this is the case, other than the fact that growing, birthing and caring for a human is extremely tiring. For myself and the fabulous midwives I work with, a portion of our day-to-day workload involves reassuring women that their symptoms are not pathological, that their experience is normal and that it is OK to go ‘off-piste’ and skip that antenatal yoga class.

Without doubt there is some inspirational content out there, and there is definitely content that I and others enjoy on social media: nursery decor ideas, maternity fashion, newborn outfits, the latest gadgets and gizmos to name a few. The flipside is there are also accounts that place extra unnecessary pressure on women, or paint an unrealistic idyllic view of pregnancy. In addition, there are accounts that tell women how they should or should not feel, what they should eat or shouldn’t eat, how much they should exercise, what pain relief they should choose, how they should breastfeed, or even how they should birth their babies. These are all choices a woman needs to discuss with her close friends and family, and midwife or doctor. Social media should not influence important decisions like this.

On the whole there is clearly a place for social media in modern day society and it is not going to disappear anytime soon. If it is reassurance you seek, or if you are concerned your pregnancy does not appear to be as easy as you had hoped or had perceived, discuss this with friends and family. If you are experiencing negative symptoms of pregnancy, discuss this with your midwife.

In time, we will become better at sifting through reems of content and deciding what will inspire us and what will leave us with that slightly downhearted and empty feeling that many of us know. Remember that we only see the version of somebody’s experiences that they want us to see.

Author Dr Tony Fordham

Dr Tony Fordham is a Specialist Registrar in Obstetrics & Gynaecology. After graduating with a medical degree from the University of Liverpool he began Paediatric Surgical training, but realised his real passion was women's health and maternity care so switched to the Obstetrics and Gynaecology programme.

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