Binge Thinking and Cybercondriacs

8 weeks + 3 days pregnant 

I do sometimes wonder if our generation of pregnant women know too much. In some ways we’re more informed than ever before and that can be empowering, but Dr Google has always been a dangerous diagnostic tool; you can self diagnose your own death at the click of a mouse. It can create a nation of hypercondriacs. Cybercondriacs. I wonder how many people turn up at the doctors these days with a self-diagnosis? I know I’ve done it. The problem is that we are often limited by our own self-bias of worst-case-scenarios. A simple headache becomes a brain tumour, lumps are always Cancer and for the pregnant lady there is a whole host of conditions and symptoms and ailments to stress and agonise over. 

The thing about the internet is that not all the websites are based on medical facts. In fact, when it comes to pregnancy, the Internet is filled with old wives tales disguised as medical facts. An added complexity is the role of social media in the diagnosis. The Internet has created a nation of ‘pseudo doctors’ who themselves read half-truths and then pass these on as facts to others. It’s a confusing and unsettling, especially for pregnant women and especially for women pregnant after loss. 

The problem is, the Internet provides instant ‘answers’ and we are an impatient generation. Want to know how to crochet? The recipe for an apple crumble? Want to know what that pain in your side is? Google it. ‘Googling’ has become an acceptable way of receiving answers fast. But when it comes to health issues it can lead to improper diagnosises and high amounts of anxiety. I’ve been there.

I woke up this morning feeling less sick than I have in over a week. ‘Brilliant news!’ It could seem, but no, not so for me. I’m constantly being told that being sick is a sign of a healthy pregnancy and so I concluded that the absence of nausea must mean something was wrong. Cue the introduction of Dr Google. I spent hours online trying to figure out what it all meant. I can report that after hours of research that… can mean everything is fine…or that everything’s not. Maybe I’d be better with a crystal ball. 

I spent ages scouring through forums even though I know forums are a catalyst for bad news. People tend to use them when they are worried, anxious or in crisis. They are very rarely used to spread good news or report happy outcomes and so we can build a very negative picture which feeds our anxiety. Also, people go online with problems but then never report back with what the outcome was, probably because everything is fine and they are off out enjoying carefree life again, while I’m just sat wondering ‘Well?…what happened in the end???’

Someone on one of my pregnancy groups recently defined the first trimester as ‘a time when you are stressing over all the various symptoms or a time when you are stressing because of a lack of them.’ It’s so true. Two days ago I was feeling so sorry for myself at how sick I felt and today I’m just wishing for a bit of nausea so I can be assured I’m still pregnant.

It’s a tough time to be pregnant. There is so much new information and so many guidelines to follow, it really makes me wonder how my own generation exists because our parents and grandparents never had access to all this ‘wealth of knowledge’. But all this new knowledge and information makes me paranoid. I end up googling virtually everything before I put it into my mouth. There are just so many rules and they are often ambiguous and confusing. 

No soft cheese. I’ve stood in the supermarket aisles before now, prodding cheese wheels to determine if they would be classed as soft. And yet soft cheeses aren’t allowed but cheese spreads are ok??? So the trick appears to be to avoid cheeses which have a ‘medium’ firmness… maybe it’d be easier to avoid cheese altogether (but would that then include cheese based dishes? Pizza?…) You can have caffeine but not too much. No more than 200mg a day. I have literally stood and measured the granules for my morning’s coffee. This pregnancy it’s seemed easier to just avoid it altogether. Likewise tuna is ok but no more than four tins in a week, or is that three? Different websites say different things. I actually passed up a tuna salad last week as I’d used my weeks quota of tuna (but wait, what do we class as a week? Does it have to be Monday-Sunday because if not maybe I can could’ve counted the tuna salad in next weeks rations). Boiled eggs are ok but not if they’re runny- cue ages spent getting the correct egg consistency. Don’t eat too much but don’t eat too little. No jacuzzis or hot baths (define hot?) no heavy lifting (define heavy?) You can exercise but nothing too strenuous (define strenuous?) No Chinese food (what on earth do the Chinese do?) No sushi (the Japanease?) No deli meats or pate (the French?) No shark…

So much of the information is vague and misleading. There are question marks over so many things- paracetamol, Hair dye, Cleaning products, cats, paint, non stick pans, plastic bottles, tinned foods, cosmetics, Salad, farm animals, seafood, the position you sleep in in bed. Sometimes I feel like it’d be easier if I could hibernate for nine months to avoid all sources of risk because they seem to touch just about every aspect of life. 

I wish I could stop the worrying and the paranoia, to know that everything will be ok with this baby. I wish I had that crystal ball. That I could focus on the 98% statistic that this baby will be ok, instead of the 2% which seems to carry all the weight. I wish I could enjoy not feeling sick without worrying that something is wrong and realise that if it isn’t sickness, it’ll be something else to obsess and worry over. I wish I could accept that worrying is pointless and let it go, enjoy the idea that everything could be just perfect. I wish I could fast forward nine months even though that’s wishing my life away. I wish I could avoid sentences that start with ‘what if…’ I wish I could stop ‘borrowing grief’ and problems from the future, to stop stealing the beauty from today.

Would this pregnancy be easier if I could know the outcome? Would life be simpler if we hadn’t tried again? No. As Albert Einstein said “A ship is always safe at shore, but that’s not what it’s built for”  


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