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CBC Digi-Hub Blog



bump2bump: the role of technology in first time motherhood

By ucjubil, on 16 May 2017

By: Nikki Newhouse, a PhD student at University College London

Becoming a parent is undoubtedly one of the biggest challenges a person can face. From one day to the next, a new mum is managing the steepest of learning curves, the new burden of responsibility, physical discomfort and sleep deprivation. No matter how many antenatal classes you attend, books you read and ‘poonami’ horror stories you hear, nothing can quite prepare you for the reality of life with a newborn. However, feeling prepared is important and new parents have long been supplementing traditional face to face parenting preparation classes with broad and varied information and advice from digital resources.  Websites like mumsnet and Emma’s Diary are an integral part of getting ready for motherhood and offer a one-stop shop of information, advice and peer to peer support. The advent of social networking has allowed us to redefine the notion of ‘it takes a village to raise a baby’ and women can seek out and maintain connections when local support might be lacking. There are apps for every stage of the fertility journey and the pregnancy/motherhood app market is one of the most commercially saturated and downloaded.

However, although we know that the vast majority of women use digital resources in pregnancy and early motherhood (and use them a lot), we don’t really know much about how they do this and why. In particular, the transition from late pregnancy into the so-called ‘fourth trimester’ of early motherhood remains a bit of a mystery. Unpacking this contextualised use is really important as it offers us an opportunity to harness an existing behaviour (prolific internet use) in order to offer targeted and effective support to new mums who still report high levels of perinatal anxiety and depression despite accessing a wide range of online and offline support and information.

The aim of my doctoral work is to develop and evaluate a digital resource that supports maternal wellbeing in low risk first time pregnancy. My PhD research sits at the crossroads of public health and Human Computer Interaction and I’m taking an approach that seeks to combine best practice from both disciplines. By taking an evidence-based, theoretically informed and person-centred approach, I hope to develop a preventative digital tool which will promote maternal wellbeing across the perinatal period.

The first stage of the research aimed to gain a good understanding of the problem and work out what aspects of maternal wellbeing might be open to influence. I began by conducting a systematic integrative review in order to identify and synthesise existing multidisciplinary evidence regarding digital wellbeing interventions for women in low risk first time pregnancy. In parallel, I interviewed 11 first time mothers about their use of digital resources in order to understand user needs and requirements in the transition to first time motherhood. Results from this stage of the work suggested a distinct gap in information and support just when women felt most vulnerable. Statutory health services became unreliable and digital resources seemed to be dominated by stories about coping and struggling. Women took a ‘foraging’ approach to their use of digital resources, combining, pausing and abandoning resources when no single website, app or forum could meet their complex needs. New mums knew what they wanted from a digital resource but struggled to find it amongst the digital ‘noise’, often simply typing their question directly into a search engine. However, certain key requirements emerged and these were used to inform the next stage of the research.

The second stage of the research involved a move from data to design. Working together with a designer, I have started to translate the evidence gathered in stage one of the project into a digital resource that aims to meet new mums’ core needs: parenting information targeted at the fourth trimester, psychological skill building, geographically relevant social support, all presented simply and with an underlying positive narrative. The iterative development of the bump2bump website has involved a codesign workshop and interview evaluation study with a total of 8 new mums.  The final stage of the project involves a larger formative evaluation exercise which is planned for later in 2017, where a group of women in late pregnancy will be invited to use the bump2bump resource as they transition to motherhood. Triangulation of interview, questionnaire and diary entry data will help to clarify the potential of taking this evidence-based, theoretically informed and person-centred approach to supporting maternal wellbeing.

BIO: Nikki Newhouse is a PhD student at University College London, working with Ann Blandford at the UCL Interaction Centre (UCLIC) and Elizabeth Murray at the eHealth Unit. She is also a researcher with the Health Experiences Research Unit at the University of Oxford, where she works on a project exploring digital support in Type II diabetes. Her background is in psychology and teaching and, prior to becoming a researcher, she was an editor and journalist.


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