'Intimate mothering publics': comparing face-to-face support groups and Internet use for women seeking information and advice in the transition to first-time motherhood

Cult Health Sex. 2015;17(2):237-51. doi: 10.1080/13691058.2014.968807. Epub 2014 Oct 23.


This paper seeks to contribute to an understanding of the changing nature of support and information-seeking practices for women in the transition to first-time motherhood. In the context of increasing digitalisation, the significance of new virtual spaces for parenting is discussed. The paper demonstrates how women seek out alternative forms of expertise (specifically, non-medical expertise) and social support. The author argues for the importance of 'intimate mothering publics' through which women gather experiential information and practical support. These publics can act as a space for women to 'test' or legitimise their new identity as a mother. Intimate mothering publics are particularly useful for thinking about the meaning-making practices and learning experiences that occur during intimate online and face-to-face interactions. A variety of types of online support may be used during pregnancy. Surreptitious support in particular involves users invisibly receiving advice, information and reassurance that might otherwise be lacking. Access to intimate mothering publics is motivated by a number of factors, including feelings of community or acceptance, the desire to be a good mother or parent, emotional support and the need for practical and experiential advice.

Keywords: Internet use; experiential advice; first-time mothers; health information-seeking; intimate publics.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Australia
  • Consumer Health Information
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Information Seeking Behavior*
  • Internet*
  • Mothers*
  • Pregnancy*
  • Qualitative Research
  • Self-Help Groups*
  • Social Support*