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Surrogate mothers use of online messaging: A study of social support

, West Virginia University, United States

West Virginia University . Awarded


People faced with challenging life events, such as pregnancy, need social support for well being. Traditionally, this support has been given via face-to-face contact in communities. It is known that online messaging promotes effective social support among people with disabilities or illnesses, and during life events such as pregnancy and parenting. It has been further suggested that surrogate mothers, women who contract with another person or a couple to bear a child, receive less social support from their families than other mothers. What is not known is how effective online social support is for surrogate mothers and how much they rely on the online support. Therefore, this exploratory study was designed to elucidate the relationship between online messaging and social support in surrogate mothers.

Eighty-five subjects responded to notification posted on active Internet sites established for surrogate mothers. During an 8-week recruitment period in the spring of 2004, these self-selected mothers indicated their interest by entering a link to the online consent form and then into the survey. All consented participants were asked to take an online survey of 37 questions. The results were collected into an Excel document and the responses were tabulated. Themes from 2 qualitative questions were trended. Types of social support, synergy of the group, frequency and timing of online activity, and efficacy were explored.

The frequency of Internet support group usage was very high during the preconception period, the time when surrogate mothers are undergoing medical testing, hormonal treatments, and procedures. Frequency of online messaging steadily declined throughout the surrogates' childbearing year. Surrogate mothers reported needing emotional and informational support the most from their online group. The preconception and conception periods were identified as the time when the most support was needed. The surrogates felt that reciprocity, or the opportunity to provide assistance to others, was important. The qualitative data suggested that there was a bi-directional flow of support between surrogate mothers. The participants were well satisfied (91%) with the support received from their online support group, and they found the online group to be effective in giving support. A high degree of emotional, informational and esteem support was reported. Practical support was less evident in the online support groups, but not absent. Synergistic outcomes, or those outcomes larger than the individual surrogate mother, identified through qualitative responses included: (a) arranging face-to-face meetings; (b) working on projects such as an upcoming surrogacy convention and establishing a surrogacy agency; and (c) communication to others in the news, speaking to groups, and writing articles about their experiences.


Aurelio, S.L. Surrogate mothers use of online messaging: A study of social support. Ph.D. thesis, West Virginia University. Retrieved February 22, 2019 from .

This record was imported from ProQuest on October 23, 2013. [Original Record]

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