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It takes a virtual village: Childbearing women's experience of a closed Facebook support group for mothers

  • Danielle M. Gleeson
    Correspondence
    Corresponding author at: Faculty of Health, School of Nursing and Midwifery, University of Southern Queensland, Ipswich, QLD 4305, Australia. Tel.: +61 418 720 253; fax: +617 3812 6299.
    Affiliations
    Faculty of Health, School of Nursing, Midwifery and Paramedicine, University of Sunshine Coast, 90 Sippy Downs Drive, Sippy Downs, QLD 4556, Australia
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  • Alison Craswell
    Affiliations
    Faculty of Health, School of Nursing, Midwifery and Paramedicine, University of Sunshine Coast, 90 Sippy Downs Drive, Sippy Downs, QLD 4556, Australia
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  • Christian M. Jones
    Affiliations
    Faculty of Arts, Business and Law, Engage Research Lab, University of Sunshine Coast, 90 Sippy Downs Drive, Sippy Downs, QLD 4556, Australia
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      Abstract

      Background

      Childbearing women engage in large public pregnancy and parenting forums, primarily for the purpose of seeking information and advice. There is an absence of research related to women's engagement in closed and private online mothers’ groups.

      Aim

      The aim of this study was to explore the experiences of participation and support for members within a closed online mothers’ group.

      Method

      A qualitative study using in-depth interviews. Reflexive thematic analysis was used to analyse the data.

      Findings

      This study demonstrated that a closed online mothers’ group enabled a group of childbearing women to overcome isolation and form sustained, evolving and supportive friendships within a small, private and trusted group. The technology allowed women to engage and share at a level much deeper than what they would in “real life”. The depth of sharing was enhanced in a closed online mothers’ group due to a smaller, private audience of trusted friends. Virtual support felt safer than face-to-face support as information could not impact one's real world reputation, and communication was able to be controlled. This was particularly helpful to women experiencing social difficulties or isolation.

      Conclusion

      This study has provided a unique and rare insight into the private world of closed online mothers’ groups. As a virtual village, this closed group enabled childbearing women to form a small community with members sharing responsibility and working for the wellbeing and benefit of all. By encouraging, locating and establishing similar groups, maternity health professionals may assist women to access their own ‘virtual village’.

      Keywords

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