When I was pregnant, my mother warned me: “Kelly, don’t read too much.” How I wish I had heeded her advice. In fact, it is one of the most important pieces of advice I would give to anyone who is expecting.

Pregnancy can be daunting and scary. So many strange things are happening to your body and you don’t know what to expect, especially if it’s your first. It can be hard to handle the unknown. In situations like these, my strategy has always been to gather as much information as possible so that I feel prepared and have at least the illusion of control. However, there is a world of difference between reading several recommended pregnancy books and flirting along the edge of the deep, dark rabbit hole of the Internet. I did both and I fell down the hole.

The Internet can be a great resource, connecting people all over the world, putting information at our fingertips, answering burning questions in seconds. But for every great source of information there are countless questionable, unreliable, downright sensationalist and fake sources.

As a teacher-librarian, I usually feel confident in my ability to filter information and use only the most reliable sources. But my intellectual training did not prepare me for the power of my hormones and fear, and it certainly didn’t prepare me for the online communities/message boards on maternity and parenting sites.

A simple question like, “How many times should I feel the baby kicking each day?” can quickly cascade into an ordeal of self-doubt and panic, when all you did was click on an entry that matched your search criteria. Too late, you realize it is a message board on which everyone and their dog feels the need to weigh in and dispense medical advice, or, even worse, to share extreme or tragic stories they have heard or experienced on the subject. Within seconds, you are completely transfixed, and half an hour later you find yourself hunched over the computer, chewing your nails or stress-eating any food that happens to be nearby. Sleep tonight? Forget it. You are going to be turning over possibilities in your head, imagining physical sensations that are not there, fighting with yourself.

“Here is the information the doctor gave me,” your rational mind says. “He/she assured us yesterday that everything is great and there is nothing to worry about. Go to sleep.” Meanwhile, your irrational, hormone-hyped pregnant mind has all alarms ringing: “But that person in Australia knew someone who had a sister who…” Argh! It can become so hard to separate mother’s intuition from pregnancy crazy talk.

You’ll probably get into these little fights with yourself anyway, owing to things you read in the news—I had to avoid that for a while—or careless comments from strangers/friends/family. Your mama bear instinct has already kicked in, and you want your baby to be safe and healthy. But you can make it so much easier on yourself if you: Stay. Away. From. The. Internet. Or, at the least, limit yourself to one or two recommended baby sites. Enter online forums/message boards at your own risk. Yes, some of the content is innocuous and it can be comforting to hear others are going through similar things. However, there is so much unsubstantiated and often conflicting information that it can muddy the rational and emotional waters.

Pregnancy is a time to look forward to your baby’s arrival, not to stress and obsess over every terrible thing that has even a remote possibility of perhaps happening. Arm yourself with sound medical information, take care of your overall health, and then spend your time doing things that make you happy (instead of stressed). If you are calm, you will be more in tune with your body, you will learn to trust your own instincts, and that is healthier for you and baby.

Kelly McQuillan is a writer, musician, teacher, and fledgling mother living in Comox, BC. web link