US gets matronising: Texts advice to expectant mothers

The US government wants to educate expectant mothers by text message, launching a new service, text4baby, which delivers daily SMS messages to pregnant women in an attempt to “promote a healthy pregnancy.”

The White House seems to have teamed up with a whole litter of eclectic sponsors for the programme, including big pharmaceutical and baby shampoo maker, Johnson&Johnson, the makers of Viagra, Pfizer, and creator of the reality TV sensation “Teen Mom”, MTV.

A wholesome bunch indeed to have a vested interest in the state of America’s children.


The messages apparently run the gamut of topics, from advice about “immunisation, nutrition, seasonal flu, prenatal care, emotional well-being, drugs and alcohol, labour and delivery, smoking cessation, breastfeeding, mental health, birth defects prevention, oral health, car seat safety, exercise and fitness, developmental milestones, safe sleep, family violence, and more.”

How that advice manages to fit in a 140 character limit, however, we don’t know.


The government site notes that whilst messages are not personalised, “the information in each message is relevant to your pregnancy timeline or the age of your child.”

To sign up for the service, mums to be have to text the word “baby” (or “bebe” for Spanish speaking users) to the number 511411 after which they’ll be asked their due date or the age of their baby if it has already born.

Yes that’s right. Not content with sending you govern-mental advice for the duration of your pregnancy, the US administration also wants to offer its two text cents to existing mothers. 

Immediately after signing up, the mums-to-be will receive one message per day for the first six days with “general information.” After that, they should receive three messages a week for the duration of their pregnancy and up until the sprog’s first birthday. 

The government even appears to have twisted the CTIA’s arm in supporting the initiative, with the Wireless Foundation ensuring that all US wireless service providers allow the texts to be received for free.  

Talk about becoming a nanny state. Please.