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Monday, January 21, 2008

What's the Problem with Pregnancy Tickers?

First what is a pregnancy ticker? It is a graphic often added to an e-mail signature that looks like a 40-42 week time line with a countdown to the birth in X days, X minutes, and sometimes X (!!) seconds. Some "cute" pointer moves along the timeline.

Yikes! A ticker knows to the second when a baby will be born!? A normal gestation is 38-42 weeks when labor is left to start on its own (if you're induced at 38, 39, 40,+, weeks, I consider that premature). What happens when you approach the end of your ticker... and... no contractions? What happens when you get to the end and you don't have a birth?

Two related scenarios come to mind that bring me to my conclusion. The first time I put an inspirational quote in my signature with the intention to inspire others, I found I was the one who the quote imprinted more than anyone else. I saw the quote over and over and over. In the case of an inspirational quote, this is a good thing. I was repeatedly reminded of my purpose. In the case of birth, you do not know when you will go into labor. You do not need to so much focus on your due date. A ticker can only add to disappointment, intervention and anxiety. There are other ways to let people know your pregnant. Typing your due date in your signature is much better then a "countdown" which reminds me of a bomb.

Say other people actually do notice your ticker and the countdown. You're going to have them nagging near the end... its time.... its time... You mean you haven't delivered yet? More anxiety and pressure to preform.

Say you know when you are going to birth because your birth is scheduled, is a ticker still harmful? I say yes, because it it propagates the myth to others who still have a chance to go into labor naturally in the 38-42 week range. Get them thinking that "I must have a ticker, too."

You probably think I am very silly, to care about a silly little trendy graphic, but I see it as a red flag to your own pregnancy. I don't necessarily see it as a sign of a healthy outlook on your birth. I see it as harmful to others. Using a ticker shows me that OBs aren't the only ones responsible for the birth crisis. It shows me that mothers are also focused on getting the baby out around a particular date and don't understand the "normal" length of a human pregnancy and don't understand that labor is best when left to start on its own.
Disappointingly, I've seen natural birth communities promote these graphics.


Jen said...

Yes I agree I think these things should be outlawed!! I especially see these on myspace pages and what not! Talk about pressure!! I learned my lesson though... next pregnancy I will aswer the infamous "when are you due" questions with a nice general "(insert month here)" rather than a specific date. I think it's just the same to constantly give people a "due date" and then when that date rolls closer people are constantly calling to see if you've given birth yet... no pressure. I went past my "due date" and after the first day or two past I was ready to throw the phone in the toilet!

kristen said...

I never got into having one of the tickers because I am techno-challenged like that.
Going past my due date last time led to an unnecessary c-section.
You can bet that next time I will be like Jen and give a due month. If pressed for a date, I might give my 42, 43, or 44 week date. Haven't decided yet.

Permission to Mother said...

Sometimes I wonder if including the ticker in a signature or on myspace is done to be "techno-impressive."

To someone who doesn't know how to add it, a ticker would be very impressive. There's otherways to impress without the dangers of a ticker.

As I was writing this post, I went to a popular ticker site to see what is involved with creating one. It was very easy. It didn't require me to sign into an account. I'm not pregnant so I sampled the breastfeeding tickers. I also found it impossible to customize. I am way over the limit they allow on a breastfeeding ticker... when you get to the end of a year it goes back to the beginning and repeats the line.

It didn't really portray my true timeline... or was it a hint I should have stopped at a year... hmmm....

Jen said...

Wow you mean to say they even have tickers for breastfeeding!?!

So where did the stigma about only breastfeeding for a year come from anyway? It really throws me for a loop because so many places (books, magazines, etc generally distributed to the masses) will say how beneficial breastmilk is and how nurturing nursing your baby can be but then in the same breath talk about weaning your child at the age of one... I must have missed the bulletin from Luke the day he turned one that said "I no longer need nurturing" !?!

Munch75 said...

I have to laugh ... I had one of these pregnancy tickers on my myspace page. I put mine there for a few reasons, but mainly because this being my first child, everyone was asking when I was due, how much longer I had, how big is the baby, and such. It was easier for me to do a ticker and I thought it was cute. I would have counted down the weeks until my due date with or without the ticker. Now the ticker has been replaced with one that shows how old my little one is! :)

pearly1979 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Permission to Mother said...


I am happy to see your well-thought out reasons why you want a ticker on your blog; I wondered why you would want one.

When I click on your blog, I have only seen the countdown and not how far along you are. I did once click on the to see where that would take me, I just didn’t think to go back and click somewhere else on the counter. I went back to it now to see how I can click on the counter.

I was given a mainstream pregnancy book during my first pregnancy. Chapters went week-by-week. I put it away for my second pregnancy. Focusing on dates even by week-by-week was way too much for me. Makes for a looong pregnancy. To focus on dates, sets women up for induction and C. When your pregnancy seems long, it’s easy to give in when you finally are asked, “Aren’t you ready to get this thing out.” I suppose pregnancy never seemed to slip by quickly to me.

Perhaps if the main focus of a provider is your dates and due date perhaps you should run.;) ( I know that’s nearly impossible in today’s birth climate.) I’d prefer to talk to women about birth and baby by topic. It gives me a much better understanding of what is going on. Maybe I am negligent, but often I have talked to pregnant women about “everything” and when I am writing my note after the appointment, I realize that I don’t have their exact due date. (Of course I am usually not doing the legal “prenatal care” per say. I function more as an empowering consultant. Have you read the read The Rent Tent, a book based on ancient biblical times? They counted pregnancy months by how many months they missed the “menstrual tent.” Back then exact dates weren’t important. It still isn’t. Exact dates are a result of the way we medically manage, as you know. Keeping track of pregnancy to the date (and seconds on some counters) is a consumer adaptation to meet expectations of modern medical providers and birth climate. Tickers will remain a red flag for me.

The first time I noticed tickers was about 1 ½ years ago on a popular natural family forum. I was really surprised that they allowed tickers for all the reasons I stated originally; including that they are so unnatural.

Your reply made me think about how I kept track of my dates. Before I had a computer, with William I had a nine month pregnancy paper calendar. I filled in conception and due date. I filled in each week in between with 1- 40 to label the weeks. It was handy for me to keep a record of appointments and pertinent pregnancy happenings. The calendar photos were awesome b/w photography that I became inspired me to emulate. William was born two days after his official due date.

Second pregnancy I kept track of in a plain date book. This was still before I had a computer. Again, I was 100% sure of my dates of conception. He was born a week after his due date.

Third pregnancy, I had it with week-by-week. I know when I am pregnant. I had a student’s spiral memo book. I wrote my conception and due date in it and wrote notes for my midwife and random thoughts. I wanted to forget my dates and enjoy the pregnancy. By this time, I lived on the computer. My birth friends were far away, as I had moved out of town. I did not work outside the house and wrote many e-mails documenting my pregnancy and venting my anxieties. I had the forethought to save everything, thinking I would eventually publish it. David was born a week before my due date based on conception. When my Spina bifida and Down’s screen came back positive. I did count and recount dates seeing if there was anyway I miscalculated weeks. He was born “earlier” then his brothers. Because he weighed the same (they all weighed 9 pounds); it makes me wonder about my calendar counting. I was absolutely certain of my conception. (Maybe this superficially makes a case for a ticker, but I would have still needed to pull out a calendar and count weeks and compare to my blood draw dates.)

The difference between my calendar and your ticker was that mine was private and not a harmful focal point for myself or others (friends cheering my pregnancy on or innocent women who would want a counter because they see mine). My paper calendar was not in my face all the time as I did not keep it in front of me. It was not in everybody else’s face either, to build an expectation that I must fulfill. I have three birth videos under an earlier blog. The third video with affirmations would make a great focal point that a child carrying woman should view daily.

Did you use a ticker for your daughter’s birth? I noticed on your blog a comment by someone who wanted a V, but ended up with a C, and in the end to her surprise it didn’t matter. I do realize you are fighting for your due date and not necessarily a VBAC. But public comments like that one I read are so typical and tend to make us (all of us, not just you) cave in and think it doesn’t matter.


pearly1979 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Permission to Mother said...

The most unique and healthiest way I can think to "show" on myspace, your website, blog, etc... would be to put a glowing series of pregnancy photos of the mom (and family) as she progresses through the pregnancy.

One look at the latest photo would let all your site visitors know how far a long/how far you have to go without dwelling on “EXACT” dates. I’d much rather see a due date used as a caption under a photo then associated with a ticker.

It is fun taking a series of pregnancy photos! Maybe it can be one of my next topics at the top of the blog to post a series of pics during my last pregnancy.

Why don't women take photos of themselves when they are pregnant? Because most society and most women see themselves as ugly and not very photogenic. Instead of using photos to show off a pregnancy; icons: some ugly and some "cute" if you will, are replacing the chance to create healthy images of ourselves.

Women are convinced our wombs are broken and our bodies don't labor right (I know I sure was convinced that my body was broken after my first labor). Taking photos... and thinking up new and creative ways to e-mail my pregnancy progress to my friends was fun. My creative expression was also very freeing. My creative outlet was absolutely necessary to help me conquer the obstacles between me and my vaginal birth.

The photos also leave a very sentimental memento for your baby compared to a very non-unique icon image. As your baby grows they will treasure the series of photos and a creative perspective of pregnancy far more than anything a ticker can do.

I challenge you pregnant moms to take down your tickers and replace with beautiful and unique photos and snapshots that show your pregnancy progression.

I appreciate all the comments to this post. Your comments help me clarify and further express my thoughts.

Anonymous said...

How scary!!!! Do you know that by using it on a myspace you are telling the world and all the freaks out there when they can come try to steal a baby if they are so inclined. YIKES!!!! I see no harm in doing it in your e-mail. You are emailing people you know, so I don't think there is any added pressure. I was two weeks late with my first...and I loved being pregnant, so it was fun to be able to share with everyone my experience. Maybe I'm weird that way!

TopHat said...

I know how upsetting those tickers can be- I had my baby at 43 weeks. Tickers just don't go that long.

Melanie B said...

These are all great points and I generally agree with what you are saying. Which means now I'm rather conflicted because I still like them. Your post gives many possible reasons why women put them on their blogs and emails but it doesn't address any of the reasons why I like the pregnancy ticker-- and probably why many other moms like them as well.

I like the pregnancy ticker and I put one on my blog during my last pregnancy because of the updates on the baby's growth. I love to think about little feet forming, bones growing, eyes opening. It helps me to visualize the little person growing within. It helps me to remember that person, to muse on her. And it helps get the focus off of it being all about me, me, me.

I like the idea of posting pregnancy photos and indeed I did post quite a few during my first pregnancy. Too tired this time around from chasing after the toddler. But a pregnancy photo only really shows me, the mom. The ticker shows not a beautiful bulging belly but an icon of the beautiful person inside that belly.

I agree that it did annoy me a little at the very end when I was nearing my due date. I did go past it and the docs were pressing for a second c-section and I didn't like that pressure. But up till that point I didn't really notice the countdown feature of the ticker.I never looked at the number of days left, I hardly payed attention to the numbers at all because I'm not a numbers person really, I wasn't in countdown mode and in fact could never recall my due date and when people asked I'd just vaguely say, "The beginning of March." No the countdown wasn't why I looked at it and could have disappeared for all I cared.

Perhaps what's really needed is not doing away with pregnancy tickers altogether but a redesign, a better pregnancy ticker. Maybe someone could come up with one that doesn't focus on due date or count down days at all. Maybe it could just be the little image of a floating baby with information about what (approximately) is happening in there. Because for me it's all about the baby.

Permission to Mother should be studying for the BIG EXAM said...

I appreciate your points and contribution. I have not seen any tickers that focus on the growing baby (little feet forming, bones growing, eyes opening) in a healthy empowering way. If you know of any please share. I have seen one that compares a baby to a raison and the length of a hotdog. Too cold for me, too distancing...

While we should certainly focus and celebrate on the growing baby, I want woman to focus on their radiant and spiritual growth through pregnancy. This is not what most woman do. Tickers seem to materialize a pregnancy. I agree with you that cyberspace could probably could benefit from a new ticker...

I should be studying, so I apologize for poor and quick choice of words, but good things to consider.

Talina said...

You have a very good point, those ticker that count down to your due date only set you up for trouble because in all actuality the due date is only a guess.

It is perfectly normal for the baby to come just before or days after the due date and still be perfectly healthy. I never thought of tickers contributing to the problem until I read your post.

I wish I could find a ticker that just showed the progress of my pregnancy and my baby's growth, maybe I can edit one of the tickers.

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