premature baby in hospital

A miscarriage is an extremely traumatic event in a family’s life. Preterm births are also incredibly stressful, with the baby’s health and future often not immediately guaranteed. With that being said, why would anyone want to discuss these private, heart-wrenching issues with anyone outside of their own family? As it turns out, it is not uncommon for miscarriages and preterm births to be discussed across various social media platforms, but especially on Twitter. Recent research published in Paediatric and Perinatal Epidemiology dove deeper into this phenomenon, and I would like to take this opportunity to recap the study to shed some more light on what drives women who have gone through miscarriages or preterm births to publicly discuss their experiences. Keep reading to learn more.

Background on Miscarriages and Preterm Births

Unfortunately, miscarriages are more common than many people realize. This is because many miscarriages occur before a woman even knows she is pregnant. However, in terms of detected pregnancies, miscarriage occurs in up to 1 in 5 cases. The likelihood of a miscarriage increases with age, and the majority of miscarriages are not due to something that the woman either did or did not do while pregnant. Preterm birth occurs when a baby is born before 37 weeks of gestation. Babies born at less than 28 weeks are considered to be extremely preterm and may face long term health issues as they grow older. Preterm births can occur for a number of reasons, some of which include having multiple pregnancies, certain infections, and chronic conditions. As both of these events can be traumatic and cause extreme stress and depression, data states that feelings of isolation are not uncommon following a miscarriage or preterm birth.

What Does the Study Address?

The purpose of the study mentioned earlier was to learn more about how and why people engage in discussions about miscarriage and preterm births on Twitter, which would lead to a more clear understanding of the emotional state of women who have experienced a miscarriage. The study stated that due to the fact that miscarriages are often misunderstood, women are more likely to grieve alone, as well as feel dissatisfied with support from their healthcare provider. Women may seek help and support from other sources following a miscarriage or preterm birth because screening for psychological distress is not uniformly practiced following a miscarriage. The study identified Twitter and other social media platforms as safe spaces for women who feel isolated to discuss their experiences with others who have gone through the same type of trauma. According to another study, some women who have experienced a miscarriage feel that the only person who could understand what they are going through is someone else who has had a miscarriage.

Study Methods – Analyzing Tweets about Miscarriage and Preterm Birth

In order to look for trends and gather data on miscarriage and preterm birth discussions on social media, the organizers of the study gathered Twitter posts containing the phrases “preterm birth” and “miscarriage” over a period of two years. 291,443 tweets were collected, and Latent Dirichlet Allocation (LDA) was used to determine major topics of discussion. 

Miscarriage and Preterm Birth Discussion Topics on Social Media

The study was able to cluster the gathered tweets into the following ten topics:

  • Celebrity disclosures
  • Olympic Gymnast Shawn Johnson’s miscarriage disclosure
  • Michelle Obama’s miscarriage disclosure
  • Politics
  • Health care
  • Preterm births
  • Feelings of loss
  • Feelings of anxiety
  • Flu vaccine
  • Ectopic pregnancies

The researchers also looked specifically for the phrases “my miscarriage” and “I had a miscarriage” to identify those who self-reported a miscarriage. These tweets were categorized by common feelings, which included grief, sadness, depression, anger, relief, isolation, annoyance, and neutral.

Findings of the Study

Overall, the study found many interesting trends regarding social media discussions about miscarriages and preterm births. It was noted that celebrities are considered to be strong and brave when discussing their struggles with infertility and miscarriage, and there was often an influx of miscarriage disclosures on social media following a celebrity sharing their own story. When politics were discussed in a miscarriage context, it was often due to a misunderstanding between abortions and miscarriages. Preterm birth findings revealed that tweets about this topic were most commonly focused on causes, treatment, prevention, and advocacy related to preterm births in the United States. 

In order to determine the emotional state of women tweeting about their miscarriage experience, the study analyzed the tone and content of miscarriage disclosure tweets. 50.6% of the tweets in this portion of the study expressed grief. There was also a strong prevalence of tweets expressing anger or annoyance, most commonly directed at people making insensitive comments or medical professionals who the women felt had treated them unfairly during or after their miscarriage.

Conclusions of the Study – What Sparks Miscarriage Conversations on Twitter? 

Upon reviewing the data, the authors of the study believe that the greatest factor that contributes to miscarriage discussions on social media is celebrity disclosure of their own miscarriages. They also feel that the study showcases the fact that individuals utilize Twitter to share information and experiences and seek support from others who understand how they are feeling. This information has the potential to be valuable for physicians who provide care and treatment for miscarriages so that patients can feel more comfortable and understood during this incredibly difficult time in their life.

What do you think of this study? If you’d like to talk about it further, please reach out to me through my website or on Instagram or Twitter. I’d love to hear your thoughts about how you’ve provided miscarriage care to your patients or how you feel social media impacts those who have experienced a miscarriage, preterm birth, or other issues with fertility.

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