When it comes to pregnancy, the Internet can be a vast source of helpful knowledge, but it can also be a tricky terrain laden with landmines of myths, misinformation, and anxiety-inducing anecdotes that will just cause you to freak out for no reason. That's why it's concerning that almost 20 percent of pregnant women use the Internet as their primary source of information about their pregnancy.
That doesn't mean 20 percent surf the web here and there, but a small study from the University of Cartuja in Spain rather found that this large percentage of women get MOST of their information from the web. Knowing what's out there, that's kind of scary.
Mostly because what's out there can be terrifying. From miscarriage symptoms to obsess over to lists of foods and drinks that will permanently damage your baby to fear, it seems all the advice out there is one big warning of something bad that can (and in your mind, will) happen. Some of it is good advice, but much of it is just too much information, and without a doctor's help to sift through it all, it can be overwhelming.
Almost all expecting parents turn to the web at some point. The study says 97.7 percent get a least some of their pregnancy information from it, and it's not surprising. How can you not when that computer is sitting right there and your every thought is consumed with the well being of your baby?
I had a love/hate relationship with my laptop during pregnancy. Some of the time, I found reassurance, and let out a big sigh of relief. Like the time I looked in the mirror, saw my tongue, and freaked the hell out. I was about five months pregnant and my tongue looked bizarre -- it had a weird pattern on it and looked like parts had been worn away. I'd never seen anything like it and was sure it wasn't good.
Since racing to my computer was quicker, I quickly Googled, "weird tongue markings, pregnant," and found pictures and other women who had the same thing, which fortunately was no big deal. I diagnosed myself with Geographic Tongue and was able to at least sleep at night without imagining I was dying from some weird disease until my doctor confirmed my diagnosis at my next visit.
In that case, it was good. But in many other cases, it just caused me to worry when my pregnancy wasn't exactly textbook, or I read about some rare disease, or some study made me suddenly fear that something I'd done had forever damaged my child. Times when I compared kick counts with other women on the web and came up short, or become obsessed with little telltale signs of miscarriage certainly caused me much undue stress and lost nights of sleep.
In the end, I think the Internet in moderation is a fabulous supplement to medical care when you're pregnant. Doctors do miss things, and I firmly believe we have to be our own strongest advocates when it comes to our health. But we also have to know when to take things with a grain of salt, put some amount of trust in the medical professionals we have chosen, and know when to just step away from the computer.
Of course, once that child actually arrives and you start raising him or her, there's a whole new world of surfing and subsequent worrying to come.
How much do you rely on the Internet for information about your pregnancy? Do you find it reassuring or fear-inducing? Have you ever been misled about something pregnancy-related by the Internet?
Image via sapiensolutions/Flickr