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Mummy wars add  to women s worries
Worries: Psychologist Monique Robinson. Picture: Steve Ferrier/The West Australian

More new and expectant mothers were suffering anxiety and stress because of information overload and pressure from other women, a WA pregnancy expert said yesterday.

Monique Robinson, a psychologist and Telethon Institute for Child Health researcher, has observed a trend of women judging and criticising each other over different approaches to pregnancy and motherhood.

She said these "mummy wars" were exacerbated by social media and blogs and resulted in women being bombarded with mixed messages, on everything from breastfeeding and diets to maternity leave and work schedules.

"We were seeing this mummy wars battle, of women not supporting each other and instead saying, 'I can't believe you're doing this, or not doing that' and it was making women feel like they couldn't trust themselves," Dr Robinson said.

"We could be putting our energies towards fighting some good battles in terms of encouraging women to stay in the workforce, and encouraging gender equity, but instead we're attacking each other."

Prompted by a marked increase in patients suffering anxiety or stress, Dr Robinson will tomorrow host a free public seminar to examine the factors affecting pregnancies and help women navigate the "minefield" of risks and recommendations.

Dr Robinson, who is expecting her first child, said information overload was a key issue facing pregnant women.

"We were worried that when women are constantly bombarded about these messages of 'don't do this, don't do that', that they might start to tune out to those messages altogether," she said.

"Thanks to social media, it can become even easier for misinformation to get out there. We want to help women understand that little things like an extra cup of coffee or changing the cat's litter tray are not likely to have long lasting repercussions."

Growing "surveillance" of pregnancies thanks to advances in technology were brilliant but could also contribute to stresses, she said.

"Women are having more scans and more tests and while they're a huge help, they encourage women to be continually thinking about risks," she said.

Dr Robinson hopes to give women a more realistic perception of the risks and promote ways to manage anxiety, which she said could result in pre-term births.

"They see the celebrity 'yummy mummies' and think, 'I should be able to do all of these things'," she said.

"Every pregnancy is different and every baby is different, so we want to encourage them to trust themselves and trust they know their baby best and not feel guilty or stressed when they see these other suggestions."

The seminar begins at 6pm at the institute's Subiaco headquarters.

To register call 9489 7779.