Threats and thrills: pregnancy apps, risk and consumption

Gareth Thomas, Deborah Lupton

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    94 Citations (Scopus)
    32 Downloads (Pure)


    In this article, we draw on the findings of a critical discourse analysis of pregnancy-related mobile software applications designed for smartphones (‘apps’) to examine how such apps configure pregnant embodiment. Drawing on a detailed analysis of all such apps available in June 2015 in the two major global app stores Google Play and Apple App Store, we discuss how such technologies (the ‘threats’ mode of representation) portray the pregnant body as a site of risk requiring careful self-surveillance using apps to reduce potential harm to women and particularly their foetuses. We show that the second dominant mode of representation (‘thrills’) constructs the pregnant body and self-tracking in more playful terms. App developers use ludification strategies and encourage the social sharing of pregnancy-related details as part of emphasising the enjoyable aspects of pregnancy. We found that both types of pregnancy-related apps endorse expectations around pregnancy behaviour that reproduce heteronormative and gendered ideals around sexuality, parenthood and consumption. These apps are sociocultural artefacts enacting pregnant bodies as sites of both risk and pleasure. In both cases, users of the apps are encouraged to view pregnancy as an embodied mode of close monitoring and surveillance, display and performance.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)495-509
    Number of pages15
    JournalHealth, Risk and Society
    Issue number7-8
    Publication statusPublished - 2016


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