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Are online forums are putting women off natural childbirth?

Are online forums are putting women off natural childbirth?

Are online forums are putting women off natural childbirth?

Women sharing ‘horror stories’ online may be putting people off having children.

In today’s social media age, oversharing in online forums has become the norm, but where does this leave us when it comes to childbirth?

Once an experience shared only between parents and midwives, giving birth has become a trending topic online, as women divulge their stories across a range of platforms with a no-holds barred approach to detail.

Speaking at the British Science Festival, Catriona Jones – a senior research fellow at the University of Hull – explained that “horror stories” about birth shared online are contributing to the rise of tocophobia: a phobia of childbirth.

Jones believes negative anecdotes are rife across social media and in online forums. “They generate a level of anxiety among women, particularly if they’re reading stories like this when they’re already pregnant,” she says.

Roughly 14 per cent of pregnant women suffer from tocophobia, a study from last year claims, and the figure has been steadily rising since 2000.

Jones was asked to research the phenomenon after the UK National Health Service noticed a surge in healthy pregnant women asking for caesareans due to fears of giving birth vaginally.

“They came to us and said that women were being referred to them late on in pregnancy and they were having to work with them to unpick their fear of childbirth,” she said at the festival.

However, Justine Roberts, Mumsnet founder, says anecdotes regarding labour can be hugely helpful to expecting mothers, even if they recount unpleasant experiences.

“Mumsnet users are impatient with the idea that adult women aren’t entitled to discover the truth about the full spectrum of birth experiences, from the blissful to the terrifying,” she says.

“Understandably, a great deal of NHS messaging about labour focuses on the positive, but the downside of this is that mothers who have traumatic experiences feel, in retrospect, that they were given a deeply partial account.

“One of the most common complaints we see on this topic is, Why on earth didn’t anyone tell me the truth about how bad it could be?”

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