New research from Curtin has revealed how and why parents used mobile devices during pregnancy was a big factor in whether or not that use helped them feel closer to their unborn baby.
Lead author Rebecca Hood, Curtin’s doctoral student from Curtin’s School of Allied Health, said interviews with parents in Western Australia revealed that viewing pregnancy information and apps on their phone or tablet helped many future parents feel connected to their baby, giving them a better idea of what was going on.
“One of the benefits was that using devices in this way helped parents imagine what their baby was like in the womb. For example, descriptions like ‘they’re now the size of an avocado and can suck their thumb,’ made parents feel more excited and caring about their babies,” Ms Hood said.
“Some parents also reported enjoying listening to music through their device on their baby bump, which increased the sense of connection.
“However, parents who used their devices for unrelated tasks, such as scrolling through social media or prolonged purposeless use, felt a sense of disconnection from their baby.”
“Additionally, several parents mentioned that reading worst-case scenarios and extreme cases such as stillbirth stories on their devices led to increased concern.”
Lead researcher Dr Juliana Zabatiero, also from Curtin’s School of Allied Health, said the findings helped explain how device use during pregnancy can affect a parent’s early relationship with their baby. .
“Research revealed how and why parents used their devices mattered, rather than just screen time,” Dr. Zabatiero said.
“While devices can increase worry or distract parents from thinking about their baby, especially when used aimlessly, they can also be helpful in forming an early bond.
“Having that connection early is important because feeling close to the baby during pregnancy generally leads to a better parent-child relationship after birth, as well as better outcomes for the child’s future.
“The results will be useful in providing information to expectant parents on how they can get the most out of the devices while being aware of potential downsides.”
This study involves families from Project ORIGINS, a collaboration between Telethon Kids Institute and Joondalup Health Campus, which is a long-term study of 10,000 families aimed at uncovering the causes of many chronic diseases, and the Australian Council Center of Excellence research for the Digital Child.
The full research paper, ‘There’s good and bad: Parents’ perspectives on the influence of touchscreen mobile device use on prenatal attachment ‘, was published in ‘Ergonomics’ and can be found online here.