July 11, 2018 | The Washington Post

The New Face of Medical Advice: The Online Pregnancy Forum

Last September, three months pregnant with my first child, I began to feel shooting pains in my abdomen. I surmised that this was round ligament pain, a typical pregnancy symptom that occurs as the uterus expands. Later that night, wondering when I could expect the pain to subside, I Googled “round ligament pain how long.” The top results were from pregnancy message boards, where women asked (and answered) a flurry of questions: Is it normal to have round ligament pain all day? Could it feel like a constant ache instead of sharp pangs? Can one experience it as early as the first trimester? I clicked on post after post, reading about the experiences of dozens of women, and learned that the pain would probably subside by the third trimester.

The next week, I Googled “itchy nipples pregnancy.” Again, I landed on forums, where I learned that this weird symptom was completely normal. Same for “itchy bellybutton pregnancy,” “dark nipples pregnant” and “chicken nauseous pregnancy.”

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