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Pregnancy and Smartphone Addiction

Several recent scientific studies have attempted to assess the prevalence of smartphone addiction among pregnant women and the impacts of excessive smartphone use on term length, birth weight, and infant health.

Let’s start with the Korean Journal of Women Health Nursing, which correlated preterm labor with smartphone use. The study tracked 111 pregnant women from October 2018 through October 2019. The study found a significant correlation between smartphone use and sleep disorders, which are an important factor in premature births.

That takes us to our next study, this time from Japan, correlating excessive mobile phone use with low birth weights. As with the Korean study, pregnant women were found to be prone to excessive mobile phone use while pregnant. For those women whose phone use was deemed excessive, birth weights were found to be lower and “the frequency of infant emergency transport was significantly higher in the excessive use group than in the ordinary use group.”

The Japanese study was conducted between 2012 and 2014, when the addictive properties of social media were just beginning to be appreciated, and involved 461 pregnant women. Interestingly enough, the same percentage of women — roughly 10% — were found to be excessive smartphone users in the Japanese survey as in the Korean survey.

One interesting finding in the Japanese study is that ordinary mobile phone users gave birth to males 55% of the time whereas excessive mobile phone users gave birth to males 44% of the time. Other findings include:

In the linear regression analysis, excessive mobile phone use was a significant predictor of low birth weight. In the logistic regression analysis, interestingly, we found that excessive mobile phone use increased the emergency transport rate, even after adjusting for confounding factors.

As with the Korean study, the Japanese study indicates that “sleep quality is poorer in users who showed [smartphone] dependence than in ordinary users.” Increased anxiety and depression were also noted in pregnant women whose sleep was disrupted by smartphone use. The authors conclude:

Our study suggests that excessive mobile phone use during pregnancy may cause mental problems, such as anxiety and depression, and health problems, such as sleep problems and sleeplessness.

Finally, we come to the most recent study, a longitudinal study of 342 pregnant women during 2020 that was just reported on January 4, 2024, in the journal Risk Management and Healthcare Policy. The study used the Smartphone Addiction Scale – Short Form to assess the level of smartphone dependency.

The findings are nuanced, but there was a positive correlation between excessive smartphone use and pregnancy stress. “For pregnant women, smartphone addiction [is] highly likely to lead to adverse pregnancy outcomes.” The conclusion contains a rather surprising warning for pregnant women to constrain their smartphone use:

Excessive use of smartphone could have adverse effects on the main social functions and daily life of pregnant women. In addition, smartphone addiction could lead to physiological problems such as headaches, ear pain, enlarged median nerve, decreased grip and hand function, arm or shoulder soreness, poor immune system, and psychological problems such as irritability, sleep disorders, and depression. Medical staff should remind pregnant women to control their smartphone addiction, thus avoiding adverse risks during pregnancy.

The authors explain how smartphone use has benefits for pregnant women in reducing loneliness through text messaging and providing access to information about having a successful pregnancy. However, during the last trimester as work and travel become harder, pregnant women increase their smartphone usage. Excessive users develop anxiety from surfing medical information and sleep disorders from excessive participation in social media.

With nearly half of teens self-reporting being addicted to their phones, we can look forward to a steady rise in the number of pregnant women with smartphone addiction problems such as anxiety, depression, eating disorders, and sleep disorders. Studies now show that these problems can lead to more preterm babies, lower birth rates and increased need for infant health interventions. It is important that pregnant women find ways to shield themselves and their unborn children from the stress associated with excessive smartphone use.

Written by Steve O’Keefe. First published January 16, 2024.


“Effects of anxiety and smartphone dependency on sleep quality among pregnant women with preterm labor,” Korean Journal of Women Health Nursing, June 2020.

“Association of excessive mobile phone use during pregnancy with birth weight: an adjunct study in Kumamoto of Japan Environment and Children’s Study,” Environmental Health and Preventive Medicine, June 2017.

“The Moderating Effect of Self-Efficacy on Pregnancy Stress and Smartphone Addiction of Pregnant Women in Late Pregnancy: A Longitudinal Study,” Risk Management and Healthcare Policy, January 4, 2024.

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