Written by By Staff Writer
By Rachel Ferrett, CNN London
In western societies, women have some of the most direct and productive uses of technology available. Grown vegetables, Sunday roast dinners, and a digital relationship with the queen or a high school crush are three of many modern connections we make — if we can work the Wi-Fi connection.
Occasionally, though, we do something that perhaps makes for a lesser connected lifestyle: we rely on technology.
We tend to “check” our phones more often than we do our watches or tripods, or write about them more often than we write about their un-life — this is in part a result of how we are used to communicating with people around the world.
Today, research reports reveal the negative impact this communication style has on women.
Are these statistics truly new?
UK research group NIUP analysed the tech habits of 33,000 women over the course of a three-year period and found that half of all such interactions could be considered “excessive” — 50% alone occurring during the first week of pregnancy.
First trimester screening guidelines recommend that women are screened as early as possible, but women in this group had 12% more complications in pregnancy than those not in this group. The study suggests that maternal phone usage and interaction might be one contributor to these complications.
Men have shorter sessions and use fewer devices, the research also suggests, but without looking at their phones more than twice during two-week intervals, their numbers may be even lower.
“The overwhelming message is that it doesn’t matter what device you use, just get off your phone,” said NIUP’s chief executive, Eliza Nagler. “Screen time is a zero-sum game: you need to set aside some time to be connected, or to have conversation with your partner or child or other person.”
But is tech really to blame?
Experts say that technology may not actually be affecting the numbers in the study. The research was compiled by phone providers EE and Vodafone. Although this could skew the results, it certainly didn’t change the amount of technology we used.
Mothers in the study used smartphones and other gadgets roughly the same as any other mothers. If that’s the case, there’s little evidence to suggest that the take up of anything new is higher than usual.
“Researchers need to get ahead of their time,” said Emer O’Brien, a clinical psychologist and mother of two. “We see more technology addiction on the internet, but we haven’t yet seen much evidence that it is associated with increased stress levels that impact on quality of life or pregnancy outcomes. We’ll probably be looking at this issue for a long time.”
‘Lovely personal evolution’
Some experts contend that, while a digital life does present challenges, it shouldn’t be a bad thing.
“Technology brings many conveniences, and if women understand and enjoy these conveniences they shouldn’t be worried about the impact technology is having on them as they get pregnant,” said Jennifer Stauffer, the founder of pregnancy blog Hooked on Babies.
“We’ve always relied on friends and family for advice on parenting as well as discussing our relationship status with our friends. Women have long been able to develop healthy attachment patterns with strangers and children — and that is what a maternal relationship is.”
Whether the technology we use helps us or hinders us, the stakes are high for a new generation of parents. A 2015 study found that 40% of women reported pregnancy was linked to their anxiety level.
“There is likely to be some real value in encouraging women to engage with babies in a more intimate way — and I think this can occur through baby learning interactions,” said Stauffer. “It’s a lovely personal evolution for both women and babies.”
Overall, experts agree that it is important to identify technologies that may be hurting us, and to regulate them as we see fit.
“Technology is everywhere and everyone — we shouldn’t expect babies to disappear if we take them out of the house too soon,” said Oviedo. “We don’t want them to miss out on too much. We want to be realistic. And if this means taking it easy to enjoy the fun, then that’s what we’ll do.”