Your friends give you conflicting advice, mom gets interfering, and gynaecologist is often too busy to take your call. So, young, pregnant women overwhelmed about childbirth and motherhood are turning to a non-intrusive source of information: the internet.
No, it’s not unreliable Wikipedia-like sites but websites that are regularly whetted by gynaecologists, paediatricians, nutritionists and psychologists, who hold your hand on lifestyle issues all the way from conception to delivery and the first few years of bringing up your toddler. And if it is medical advice you need, they immediately raise a red flag and recommend you visit a clinician. “I trust a paedetrician for medication, for everything else there is internet. I can post a query at 2 am on a website or a new-mums network and some mother would be definitely awake to reply,” says Dhruti Dave Lingam, a mother of two-year-old Shanaya, who registered on parentsconnect.com, a website that sent her monthly updates on baby growth during each stage of a pregnancy.She particularly enjoyed watching the 3D videos, showing how much a child grows in the womb every month. "It’s cute to see how a foetus turns from a rat-like creature into a beautiful baby," says Dhruti, 30, coordinator at a child counselling centre in Mumbai. With her parents living in the US and her in-laws in Hyderabad, the internet is still her best parenting guide.
There’s clearly a huge need. The Fortis Group’s mammamia.fortishealthcare.com, which was launched three months ago, has grown 60 times in three months. “Our clicks double up every month. We have been very well received,” says Anika Parashar Puri, founder member of Mamma Mia and head maternity services at Fortis.
“We have tips for aspirant mothers to young mothers coping with energetic four-year-old,” she says. With a panel of doctors, nutritionists, therapists, child birth educators, lactation counsellors — the website has all tools a would-be mom needs to cope with her pregnancy and beyond. Mamma Mia has 10,555 followers on facebook in three short months.
Indiaparenting is another site that offers you everything from birth to pre-adolescence — from determining a pregnancy and expecting a baby, to step-by-step advice on how to deal with newborns (0-3 months), babies (3-12 months), toddlers (1-3 years), pre-schoolers (3-5 years) to 9-year-olds. Apart from the usual tips on diapering, bathing, breastfeeding and toilet training, there’s a section on post-pregnancy blues ranging from depression, losing weight after delivery and resuming sex after childbirth. A ‘cool tool’ tab on the site offers a mix of useful and quirky tools such as the ovulation and due-date calculators, height and weight calculator and a baby name finder.
“From advice on exercise to nutrition and psychological counselling, we guide new moms and help them sail through their pregnancies,” said Diane Rai, editor, babycentre.com. Ever since its launch in India in March 2007, the site has grown over 1000%,” she says.
Babycentre.com, one of the early mother and childcare websites, offers date-wise tips from the day of conception. “We post a weekly update on your pregnancy till your date of delivery. And once you have delivered your baby, we track the growing years of your child, initially weekly and then monthly,” said Rai. The website, which has 18 international sites, attunes itself to the sensibilities of different countries.
Visitors read up, watch videos and blog to find the answer to their concerns. Apart from mums, dads are also kept posted so that they are equal partners in childcare. “Our doctors have posted ready answers for frequently asked questions. And if we see there are some unanswered questions, which need attention, we find solutions and post them on our website,” said Rai.
Although the site has most reader queries answered by its experts, the site managers say the replies are not ‘individualised.’ “Most people relate to it as motherhood concerns are common,” said Rai. Indiaparenting.com, with over 41,000 followers on facebook is also a favoured site among parents, which guides them about parenting all the way up to the teenage years.
“Through both my pregnancies, abycentre.com was my bible and in fact I must have told 100 other expecting moms to follow it,” said Lekha Sundara. “I often look up interesting recipes for kids on the site. Not only are ideas kid friendly, but also keep nutrition quotient in mind,” she said. Like most pregnant Indian women, Dhruti too savoured the book, What To Expect When You’re Expecting, as her bible for a soon-to-be-mom. “But now, I just use the internet. Like yesterday, I looked up how to control loosies (diarrhoea) for your two-year-old,” she says. “Of course, I only trust a paedetrician for medication, but for simple home-remedies and everything else, I have the internet.”
“These sites have replaced the need for books, which get dated quickly. Many of my patients follow these sites, but my only little suggestion is that while 99% of the information may hold true, but for any smallest confusion about the 1%, one should discuss it with your doctor,” said Dr Anuradha Kapur, senior gynaecologist at Max Healthcare.
Then, there are the many online baby stores and one-stop-shops for all baby and mother needs, going as far as redecorating the baby’s room. For Shanaya’s second birthday, Dhruti ordered jungle-themed plates, balloons and return gifts from a US-based website partycity.com. The products, she says, are of better quality and not made in China. “Two-year-olds tend to put things in their mouth. I didn’t want to take a chance,” she says.
With so much hand-holding and home-tutoring, motherhood is getting easier with each passing day.