Symbolic Annihilation through Design: Pregnancy Loss in Pregnancy-related Mobile Apps

Andalibi, Nazanin
New Media & Society

Pregnancy is a significant life event for many. Using mobile apps to manage pregnancies is common. Pregnancy loss is a common complication associated with stigma that impacts one’s wellbeing, relationships, sense of self, and more. While pregnancy loss is important to many experiencing it, it is unclear to what extent pregnancy-related mobile apps account for it and consider associated users’ needs in their designs. We conducted a feature analysis of 166 pregnancy-related apps. We found that their main features focus on information, tracking, reminders, and social contact, and that 72% of these apps do not account for loss, 18% explicitly account for it, and 10% passively do so. We theorize this lack of consideration as symbolic annihilation through design. We argue that such annihilation is partly shaped by intensified mothering ideologies, further stigmatizes pregnancy loss, and perpetuates a normative, linear portrait of the pregnancy experience which is harmful and marginalizing.