The Virtual Village: An Exploration of a Private Online Mothers’ Group

Dr Danielle Gleeson1

1University Of Southern Queensland, Ipswich, Australia


Background: Childbearing women engage in large public pregnancy and parenting forums, primarily for the purpose of seeking information and advice. There is an absence of research related to women’s engagement in closed and private online mothers’ groups.

Aim: The aim of this study was to explore the experiences of participation and support for members within a closed online mothers’ group.

Method: A qualitative study using in-depth interviews. Reflexive thematic analysis was used to analyse the data.

Findings: This study demonstrated that a closed online mothers’ group enabled a group of childbearing women to overcome isolation and form sustained, evolving and supportive friendships within a small, private and trusted group. The technology allowed women to engage and share at a level much deeper than what they would in “real life”. The depth of sharing was enhanced in a closed online mothers’ group due to a smaller, private audience of trusted friends. Virtual support felt safer than face-to-face support as information could not impact one’s real world reputation, and communication was able to be controlled. This was particularly helpful to women experiencing social difficulties or isolation.

Conclusion: This study has provided a unique and rare insight into the private world of closed online mothers’ groups. As a virtual village, this closed group enabled childbearing women to form a small community with members sharing responsibility and working for the wellbeing and benefit of all. By encouraging, locating and establishing similar groups, maternity health professionals may assist women to access their own ‘virtual village’.


Dr Danielle Gleeson is the Acting Midwifery Program Director at the University of Southern Queensland and has 21 years of clinical and teaching experience in the midwifery profession. Danielle is passionate about improving midwifery care to ensure midwives foster partnerships with childbearing women and respect the ability and need of women to be self-determining in their pregnancy, birth and motherhood.