In a world where Google can convince you that the most common of symptoms could require a trip to the hospital, and online support groups can leave you feeling the opposite of supported, a West Yorkshire mother has launched a new app to connect mums around the world - using their voices.
Mumsanywhere has had more than 1,000 downloads in its first seven days since launching last Monday, and has been publicly supported by celebrity mums, television stars Amy Childs and Imogen Thomas.
The idea is simple, members post a topic, query or comment using a 20-second voice clip, which other mums can respond to, in real time, with their own voice notes.
For founder Claire Morritt, mother of Joseph, four, and Gabriella, five months, it’s the ideal solution for challenges she faced in her own pregnancies, which inspired the app.
Mrs Morritt, 34, from Wetherby, said: “My pregnancy with Joseph was textbook, everything was going exactly as it was supposed to be, until at 37 weeks, I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes. I was well within a healthy BMI, had a healthy lifestyle, and it was a real shock to me. I immediately began Googling it and found posts on mums’ forums but they were all a few years old - what I wanted to do was talk to someone who was going through it then, like I was.
“It got my brain ticking - when you hear someone’s voice, there is empathy there, a connection.”
The idea stayed with her into her second pregnancy, when she “commandeered” web developers at her husband’s eLearning company, Webanywhere in Leeds, to develop the app.
She believes it has the potential to help new mums who might be lonely or isolated. Research by the charity Action for Children shows that more than a quarter of Yorkshire mums say loneliness is a problem for them.
“I wanted to create a community where you can bounce off one another, moan when we have a bad day, and share out frustrations with parenting,” Mrs Morritt said. “There are a lot of mums out there that don’t have a great support system, and need a bit of reassurance.
“There are apps out there for meeting up with local mums but not everyone has the confidence to meet up for a coffee with someone they don’t know. They are the most vulnerable, the ones who don’t want to leave the house. But they still want to talk to someone, to reaffirm that what they are going through it totally normal.”
In the first week of launching, members have sought advice on a range of issues from breastfeeding to teething, and sleeping through the night to weaning.
Mrs Morritt plans to add “expert” such as midwives to Mumsanywhere to give support post-birth, and with capacity for a million members, she hopes to see it grow.
“We already have mums registered from as far as Australia, and my vision is to get women across the works offering support and advice,” she said. “Becoming a mum for the first time can be a massive culture shock, but we all have one thing in common and that is our children. I believe so passionately in this and its ability to help mums in situations where all they need is a bit of reassurance.”
This month research by charity Action for Children, released as part of its partnership with the Jo Cox Loneliness Commission, showed that more than half of Yorkshire parents have felt lonely in the last year - with almost a third saying they had become more lonely since becoming a parent.
Sustained loneliness can have a significant impact on mental and physical health, contributing to stress, anxiety, paranoia, depression and heart disease.