It was mid-September When I first saw a very faint but recognizable second line on a home pregnancy test. I just got home from a business trip in the UK, and after a few days of discomfort – retching from the smell of toothpaste in the hotel bathroom, multiple excuses to get out of a sudden petrol over a business lunch – I suspect I’m pregnant. I took the test at 5:30 in the morning, jet lag and my eyes fell asleep. My husband slept soundly, and I told my cat that they were big brothers, and then I did what most expectant mothers would do in the Internet age: download the pregnancy app. How big is my embryo? I need to know, and fast.
I quickly discovered that the answer was poppy seeds. I wondered how poppy seeds made me feel so bad so quickly, and more urgently, if the app could tell me if the severe pain on the left side of my abdomen meant something was wrong with me or the baby, or both. At least, I think, it will provide me with some answers or some inner comfort until the pregnancy books I ordered arrive or I can see my ob-gyn.
I was wrong. I quickly learned that pregnancy apps are not designed to provide comfort. They’re a fantasy world-cum-horror show that offers little real information about parenting. They exploit the excitement and anxiety of expectant mothers, peddling unrealistic expectations, and even downright false information to sell ads and keep users engaged. They negatively affect the physical and mental health of mothers and their unborn children, profiting from the emotional shock of pregnancy. They’re another way the internet and the U.S. healthcare system are failing pregnant women.
as false information Fellow, I study how people are manipulated online, so I’m mentally prepared for an ad blitz from the Apple App Store and Google searches to my Facebook and Instagram feeds.When my husband and I decided it was time to have kids, I was careful Turn on VPN And search the incognito window for answers to pregnancy-related questions; I’m not sure how long it will take us to get pregnant, and I’m wary The Emotional Burden of Targeted Advertising Follow me on the internet. But once I got pregnant, it became cumbersome to go through that anonymous gallows every time I had a question. So I caved and accepted that the ads I saw no longer depicted luxury handbags and exotic vacations that I couldn’t afford, but eco-friendly cribs and organic onesies that I probably didn’t need. I think this would be the worst crime on the internet.
The truth is much worse. I quickly realized that the most downloaded pregnancy app was more akin to the political disinformation I researched than a reliable medical resource for expecting parents.The companies behind the apps warn users in lengthy, inaccessible terms of service written in legalese that they are not a substitute for medical advice or care, but the apps are still hugely popular: in a 2016 Research, at least 55% of the participants used a pregnancy app to track and understand their pregnancy, and first-time parents were more likely to find them. Application usage may have only increased during this period. The top five apps have incredible user statistics, reporting tens to hundreds of millions of lifetime users. Like social media platforms, they are free and generate revenue through advertising, referrals, and in-app purchases. Many are run by “lifestyle” companies that provide information that confirms this fact: 2021 Academic Research A survey of 29 apps found that more than 60% did not have comprehensive information for each pregnancy stage, and only 28% cited medical literature.
From the first interaction with one of the apps (usually the sign-up screen), it’s clear that they don’t just exist to help users get through pregnancy. Reluctantly, I gave each application my email address. (only one of the top apps, what to expect, what are you expecting when you are expecting Fame allows you to skip this step, although a reminder pops up every time you open it, by keeping your data, you miss out on the “personalized experience”. ) I checked the box, acknowledging that the app developer might share my information with a partner – otherwise, I don’t have an app! – but the immediacy with which it happened was astounding. Within minutes, I had a health newsletter from WebMD in my inbox. I’m now apparently also subscribed to Pottery Barn Kids emails. (I can’t seem to unsubscribe either.) Within a few weeks, I’ll be getting emails from my local preschool urging me to consider educating my current pea-sized, tail-tailed unborn child. All of this was accompanied by churning nausea, unparalleled fatigue and severe pain on my left side that still hadn’t gone away.