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Too much information is putting pregnant women and their babies in danger.

Pregnant women are at risk… From the internet.

New research has found ‘information overload’ is causing pregnant women to forget the basics.

Between mummy bloggers, health websites and baby and toddler e-magazines, all the noise around pregnancy – prohibiting everything from soft cheese to bean sprouts, stressing women on the exact dangers of being stressed, and touting the benefits of classical music on the intellect of the future bub – has has left mums-to-be reeling.

The consequence? Women are forgetting the basics. Almost 80% of women drink while pregnant, and 30% continue smoking.

“There are more rules and regulations and more recommendations than women have ever had before,” Deborah Loxton, deputy director of Australian Longitudinal Study, which examined 58,000 women across four age groups, told 10 News. “There’s nothing there that communicates what is the most important thing to do.”

Pregnant women aren’t the only ones affected.

You want to know the answer to a problem. Maybe you’re researching an article, or feeling unwell, maybe you need to know the best way to travel from one place to another… Whatever it is, your eyes are Google.

Until you see an article about the most frequently used slang terms for milk (how many could there possibly be? You need to know this, the bus timetables can wait).

Or until you become overwhelmed by the ridiculous number of resources with information on the topic ‘information overload’.

Or until you close the laptop in sheer terror, convinced your stomach ache is actually a case of gastroesophageal reflux disease.

Here are some quick stats:

  • We (the average internet users) receive around 63,000 words of new information, each day.
  • We check around 40 websites a day.
  • We switch programs 36 times an hour – or change tasks more than once every two minutes.

The internet presents us with an entire universe of information. Obviously there are benefits to this; it means we’re more connected, informed, empowered than ever before. But it also changes the way we behave or, in some cases, don’t behave.

There are two ways this might occur:

In one instance, we become arrogant in the amount of information we have at our disposal, that we stop asking ourselves questions (“I’ll just Google it”); fail to seek out help; or become convinced of truths that are 100% wrong (anti-vaccination forums, anyone?).

Alternatively, we become stunned into inaction or ignorance because of the amount and diversity of information we are confronted with. Pregnant women are case in point.

Just like too many pregnancy blogs are causing the complete opposite behaviour of what they’re designed to promote, there are several other areas seeing the exact same phenomena.

Health

Health websites should help educate, inform, reassure and prevent. Except, when your faced with a million sites telling you that rash could be anything from rosacea to meningitis, you’re not learning anything and you’re definitely not helping your health.

This swarm of information – alongside various apps that will scan your sun spots for abnormalities, or take your temperature through your iPhone – might leave you feeling confident that the rash is no big deal. Because of this, you won’t seek treatment… but you’ll probably use a balm of avocado flesh to sooth your itching skin because that wholesome health blogger said it’s “life changing”.

Alternatively, the exorbitant amount of rash-causing possibilities will leave you petrified, with a case of anxiety alongside the rash. Cyberchondria is a term used to describe this anxiety, and research has shown it’s no small matter:

“The Web has the potential to increase the anxieties of people who have little or no medical training, especially when Web search is employed as a diagnostic procedure,” a 2008 study by Ryen White and Eric Horvitz states. “Our results show that Web search engines have the potential to escalate medical concerns.”

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Whether you’re convinced you know the cause of your symptoms, and your treating yourself the way Dr Google told you. Or if you’ve wound up with a more severe headache because you’re now certain it’s definitely brain cancer. Googling your symptoms can put your health at greater risk when you rely on information that is incorrect or unprofessional.

Information overload is putting our health, professionalism and relationships at risk.

Professionalism

The abundance of information at our fingertips should mean we can work faster and smarter than ever before. We can access greater amounts of information at the click of a button, which should make us better, more diligent, more accurate in our professional roles, right? Wrong.

In the paradox that is the internet, information overload is killing our learning, creativity and productivity.

Research out of Stanford University in California has shown being bombarded by streams of electronic information reduces our attention spans. Multi-tasking means it's more difficult to control our memory, or effectively switch from one task to another. We become "suckers for irrelevancy", as one of the researchers said.

Similarly, multitasking hinders creativity. A study out of Harvard University found the likelihood of creative thinking is higher when a person is focusing on one project at a time, for the most part of the day. As opposed to being distracted regularly, or flitting between tasks... or 40 different browser windows.

Relationships

Technology is designed to connect people. You can be on the other side of the world and still see and chat with your partner or friends due to the overwhelming variety of messaging and video call apps. Except you don't, because it's a cleverly disguised black hole of time and concentration.

If you go on social media to Facetime a friend, by the time you've checked out the photos from that engagement party, or read the 300-word rant from that girl you knew at school, you no longer have time to call your friend, and there are three more messages from people who've seen you're online that you now have to get back to. (#firstworldproblems I know, but a prime example of the time-swallowing paradox that is the internet).

And what about our immediate relationships? What happened to just talking? Maybe you want to show your partner that YouTube video or article you know they'll love, or maybe you're having an argument and it's quicker just to Google the answer, instead of talking it out. All this "sharing" and "fact checking" is simply contributing to screen time, detracting your attention from the very person you're trying to entertain, inform or prove wrong.

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At Sunday night's TV Week Logie Awards, Australian television icon Noni Hazlehurst did a moving, heart-felt and eye-opening speech on the way our devices and the internet are changing us - reducing our compassion, and ruining our attention spans.

Hazlehurst urged us to protect ourselves and our families from falling into the mind-trap that occurs with information overload. And, as the pregnant women of Australia are showing us, the need for this has never been more critical. It's time to remember the benefits of common sense, a narrow focus and long-term thinking, for the sake of our health, professionalism, relationships and families.

Before you do this though, I can confirm there are apparently 25 slang words for standard milk. Who knew?

Watch next: What kids have to say about their parents' device uses.

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