“Why we need to pay attention to online peer-to-peer support forums for new mothers”

Posted by ap507 at Dec 05, 2016 12:40 PM |
University of Leicester researcher discusses how many women are turning to the internet for pre and post-natal support as cuts continue in healthcare funding

Issued by University of Leicester Press Office on 5 December 2016

“These forums are emerging to be the space mothers feel able to go to for late night commiseration, advice and support” – Dr Ranjana Das

Many mothers are bypassing health services and turning to peer-to-peer support forums for advice and support as cuts are made to public funding, according to a researcher from the University of Leicester.

Dr Ranjana Das from the University of Leicester School of Media, Communication and Sociology has written an article for Think: Leicester, the University’s platform for independent academic opinion, outlining how social media forums designed for peer-to-peer parenting support are emerging to be the space mothers feel able to go to for late night commiseration, advice and support.

In the article Dr Das says: “'Official' channels of advice are often being sought but not found, or at least, not found quickly or consistently enough, and consequently, being bypassed for shared wisdom and handed-down experience of the kind one might find from family or relatives.

“There is a real need (if cuts continue the way they are doing) to investigate what kind of potential these platforms might have for pre and post-natal support.

“Paying attention to this also leads to developing a real sense of the kinds of support being sought, which spans a very wide range, including infant feeding, practical advice and help, financial worries, returning to work, not returning to work, financial abuse, domestic violence and special needs.”

Examining online forums speaking about childbirth for example, Dr Das suggests that they often become the site of two contrasting sets of voices - one empowering, and the other disempowering, with both seeming to represent historical shifts in attitudes to women, women's bodies and childbirth as a biological, social and cultural practice.

Dr Das adds: “Peer-to-peer support networks online are rapidly becoming popular, 24/7 avenues of wisdom sharing, virtual hand-holding and occasionally less positive platforms where those responsible for very young children, while feeling frayed, confused and exhausted, seek help.

“These platforms aren't to be dismissed as the general chatter of the networked world, not just for their potentials and possibilities in the face of public finding cuts, but because of the ways in which these conversations mirror and even shape the ways in which we, as a society, think and speak about children, parents and families.”

More about the project be found in Dr Ranjana Das’s 'Birth Stories' book due to be published with Routledge in 2018.


Notes to editors:

For more information contact Dr Ranjana Das on rd207@le.ac.uk  


Share this page: