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New Parents, Social Media & Pregnancy: What You Need to Know

Mattie James is a momfluencer and author with over 135k followers on Instagram.

Mattie James (pictured here) is a “momfluencer” and author with over 135k Instagram followers.

From over-the-top pregnancy reveals to momfluencers with hundreds of thousands of followers, social media might lead new parents to believe pregnancy is relatively easy. It is not. Pregnancy is complicated.

The pregnancy reality for new parents is often more complicated than social media wants you to believe.

At best, pregnancy is a joyful time for you and your family (chosen or biological), bringing everyone together to celebrate a new life. In reality, it often comes with more than just unbridled excitement.

Anxiety, isolation, comparison, and guilt – these are some of the emotions that many pregnant people feel at some point during pregnancy, and that’s not even including the physical symptoms and implications of your ever-changing body on your mental health. Pregnancy is a quintessentially unique experience for every person, but that doesn’t mean you are alone at any point throughout the process.

Jessica Grose (pictured here) is a journalist and author who has written extensively on social media and pregnancy.

Jessica Grose (pictured here) is a journalist and author who has written extensively on social media and pregnancy.

Why don’t new parents use social media to talk about the difficulties of pregnancy?

Individually, we witness others’ lives in a highlight reel through social media or in the abridged version they tell us. What we see impacts how we understand the world and ourselves. If you’ve watched someone you love struggle to get pregnant, and you get pregnant on the first try, where is the space for you to celebrate? How can you do so while holding the validity of others’ experiences?

There’s pressure to feel happy about something that maybe disrupts your career trajectory or adjusts your timeline in a way that doesn’t suit your reality. What if you don’t feel ready financially, emotionally, or mentally? Where do the self-doubt and the guilt around the multitude of emotions you’re feeling go? Opening up to people about the entirety of your experience and the complexity of it takes emotional labor, and some may not feel up to the arduous task of letting people see the nuance or hardship associated with pregnancy. “Baby and mom are healthy” or “we’re so excited” is often easier to say than to feel.

Societal expectations of motherhood reinforce the notion that mothers are to be neither seen nor heard. That begins at conception. Pregnant people are not given the space to discuss their fears around miscarriage, the physical toll of pregnancy, or how hard it is to say manage fertility doctors’ appointments during a corporate workday because we are taught that pregnancy shouldn’t be announced until after the first trimester. Explain away the morning sickness and fatigue and mourn or ruminate in private. This dynamic ingrain a culture of secrecy and, in turn, can potentially exacerbate the isolation that pregnant people feel from their communities.

Dr. Cheryl Bettigole (pictured here) is the Philadelphia Health Commissioner.

Dr. Cheryl Bettigole (pictured here) is the Philadelphia Health Commissioner, whose department in 2022 released a critical report on depression and pregnant & postpartum Philadelphians.

Adjustment is often messy; pregnancy is not an exception to this rule.

Individually, romantically, and societally, we have the potential to feel disconnected throughout pregnancy and layer these facets together to keep us apart during one of the most physically and mentally disruptive phases of our lives. Can you stand in your experience and model to others what it means to be pregnant? Can you rely on your support systems when you ask for it? Reckoning with the changes individually and within our relationships as a result of pregnancy may give more space for normalizing hardship. Talking about hardship in all its complexity, with the people you trust and those who can hold space for your experience, can make it lighter.

Ideally, we can confide in our partner about our most vulnerable thoughts and feelings during the pregnancy process. When one of you is pregnant, the expectation is that both of you will be feeling the same things as they arise, even though only one of you is physically experiencing changes. That can be difficult for partnerships to navigate and can lend itself to disconnection. Do we, as people and as a society, allow for the idea that some relationships struggle throughout pregnancy, or do we automatically assume it brings us closer? Pregnancy is a significant life change, and with that comes adjustment. Adjustment is often messy; pregnancy is not the exception to this rule.

Kathy Klein, M.S.Ed., MSW, LSW is a CFR Staff Therapist and author of this article.

Kathy Klein, M.S.Ed., MSW, LSW (pictured here) is a CFR Staff Therapist.

About the Author

Kathy Klein, M.S.Ed., MSW, LSW, is a CFR Staff Therapist in Philadelphia. She is currently accepting new patients. Click here to book an appointment.

You may reach Kathy at kklein@councilforrelationships.org or 215-382-6680 ext 7022.

See our Therapist & Psychologist Directory to find a different CFR therapist or psychiatrist near you.

About CFR’s Women’s Psychological Health Services

Women’s Psychological Health Services (WPHS) connects specially-trained clinicians to help women navigate mental health through all the stages of their lives, including during pregnancy and postpartum.

Click here to learn more about WPHS.

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