When TikTok creator and then-new mom Sarah Biggers-Stewart opened up about her postpartum experience and difficult pregnancy in a video last year, one viewer’s comment caught her eye: «Where’s the girl with the list? ?»

In recent months, the phrase has become a common response to pregnancy and childbirth videos on TikTok.

The «list» refers to a collaborative archive titled “Yuni’s List of Pros and Cons of Having Children”, in which the arguments against getting pregnant far outweigh the reasons for having children. The downsides range from common pregnancy symptoms like nausea and bloating to lesser-known issues like «her tiny foot of hers could get stuck in your ribs and you could break a rib.»

Although some of its critics say the list fuels scaremongering and misinformation, other creators have praised it for inspiring more honest discussions about pregnancy and childbirth. Regardless of its reception, the list marks a change in the way pregnancy is discussed online and reveals the need for more comprehensive health education. The growing popularity of the list also dovetails with the push to preserve reproductive rights after the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade, who had guaranteed the constitutional right to abortion.

Biggers-Stewart, who is now pregnant with her second child, described the videos on the list as «a powerful tool for self-defense.»

“I was totally shocked by all the things that could happen to you. And that’s even in today’s modern world, which is staggering with the amount of research and access we have at our fingertips,» Biggers-Stewart said. “There are so many different types of complications, and it can be really brutal for women. So I thought, this is empowering.»

Biggers-Stewart, who works in the beauty industry, noted that platforms like TikTok and Reddit provide an alternative perspective to the highly healed pregnancies traditionally portrayed on social media and parenting blogs. Authenticity, even if it’s fabricated, is highly valued on TikTok.

“What people expect is that those who have complications leave the pregnancy sick. That’s why you had complications, or you didn’t take care of yourself, or you smoked, or you didn’t eat right,” said Dr. Shannon Clark, an obstetrician-gynecologist who specializes in treating high-risk pregnancies. “It was always a kind of victim blaming, that people who had pregnancy complications probably did something to cause it. But what we’re realizing now is that that’s not always the case.»

Who is the girl on the list?

The list first it went viral in February 2022, when TikTok creator Yunique Thoughts posted a screen recording of her Apple Notes app listing in response to a video about postpartum body changes. In the months that followed, the creator, also known as Yuni, updated the list on TikToks by adding other videos about pregnancy, childbirth, and parenting. Viewers frequently tagged Yuni in other creators’ videos, leading to the viral catchphrase «Where’s the girl on the list?»

Yuni stopped posting on TikTok around August and has not responded to requests for comment. Before she stopped posting, she posted the entire list of 35 «pros» and 350 «cons» on her website. Her list inspired copycat accounts and lists of similar Notes apps.

in a video under the trend, a creator showed his «Pac-Man» ear, which was permanently torn after her little daughter ripped off her earring. another creator The hashtag #pregnancylist said her son “almost didn’t live” — a common TikTok euphemism for death — during his birth despite her relatively healthy pregnancy. Others who used the hashtag #girlwiththelist posted about their health issues, from debilitating joint pain to heart failure. Some said they didn’t expect postpartum depression to be so bad.

Many TikTok users, regardless of whether they are pregnant or childless, say that they did not know about the various complications that can arise during pregnancy until they saw the videos on the viral list. In reply to Biggers-Stewart recent video About the list, one TikTok user commented, “I wish I had that pregnancy list before I got pregnant. I was NOT prepared for what happened to me and the school system did not tell me either.”

I truly believe that when women think they are the only people experiencing this particular aspect of pregnancy, they are less likely to talk to their doctors and advocate for themselves because they feel foolish.

TIkTOk creator sarah bigers-stewart

Motherhood has been exalted throughout history, but that reverence can overshadow conversations about the unpleasant and sometimes dangerous aspects of pregnancy. Experiencing such a difficult pregnancy can be isolating, Biggers-Stewart said, and the conversations that accompany the list can inform viewers about «things that could be going wrong.» She said that during her first pregnancy, she developed gestational diabetes, severe insomnia and a litany of other health problems that she was not prepared for despite being considered well researched.

“All the girlfriends I’ve had who had pregnancies had magical, beautiful, lovely pregnancies. I was sick from the day I found out I was pregnant until the day I gave birth,” she said of her first pregnancy. «I really think that when women think they’re the only person experiencing this particular aspect of pregnancy, they’re less likely to talk to their doctors and less likely to advocate for themselves because they feel foolish.»

Beware of misinformation

While the conversations around the list can be enriching, experts warn that Misinformation is rampant on TikTok, and some video posters may lack the reproductive health education necessary to provide proper guidance to pregnant individuals. Some viral videos about the list have also been criticized by medical professionals for sensationalizing pregnancy complications and failing to provide context.

Preposterous claims that are loosely based on actual health conditions are repeatedly circulating on TikTok. A viral addition to many list videos, for example, claims that pregnancy can cause tooth loss because the fetus needs its mother’s bone marrow and calcium.

Clark said that pregnancy can exacerbate oral problems a patient already had before becoming pregnant and that many dentists will choose to postpone certain procedures until after the patient gives birth. Vomiting can also erode teeth, she said, and high hormone levels can aggravate gingivitis, which can lead to bleeding gums and loose teeth if left untreated. But telling viewers that babies leech off their mother’s bones to grow their own will likely generate more engagement.

Patients often turn to the Internet because «providers don’t explain» what is really happening to their bodies, Clark said. To a doctor, terms like «placental abruption» and «cervical incompetence» are «routine.» For an expecting parent, it can be scary.

“It’s not a routine for the average person. We have to respect that and sit down and talk to them about it,» Clark said. “Because if we don’t, they’re going to go straight to social media. … I hope they go to an account that does provide accurate information, like mine, but many times they don’t go and go to an account that doesn’t. What makes you think that? That you’re not doing your job as a provider, which further deepens the gap in the doctor-patient relationship when it comes to care.»

It’s a ‘fine line’ between informative and insensitive

The content on the list has deviated from Yuni’s, sparking a debate on whether or not the trend is insensitive. Countless accounts mimicking Yuni’s original list format have gone viral and gained her own following, causing confusion as to who «the girl on the list» really is.

Some TikTok users expressed offense at the “pregnancy nose” videos, in which the creators showed viewers how much their faces changed during pregnancy. Others chided TikTok users for inundating any pregnancy and childbirth video with comments about the list. Parents who make fun of themselves by asking for “the girl on the list” in their videos are willingly committing to the trend. But TikTok users also criticize creators who post vulnerable content, such as expressing insecurity about their postpartum body or talking about the trauma of childbirth, with comments on the list.

The list started as a «crowdsourced informed consent tool,» Biggers-Stewart said, but it has «transitioned» over time and «people don’t always use common sense.»

“They will be commenting on very sensitive videos where someone is talking about something traumatic that happened to them, and it is very clear that they are emotionally distraught about it,” Biggers-Stewart said. “And someone will say, ‘Where’s the girl with the list?’ I think some people on TikTok, like everything else, blow it out of proportion and don’t use their brains to mention the list.»

Abigail Porter, a TikTok creator known for her “Free Contraceptives” Series on how to beat baby fever by discussing reasons for not having children, she is often mistaken for «the girl on the list.» Porter began the series of her in 2021 and said that he befriended Yuni before she went offline, as their content was similar.

Porter has made several videos informing viewers about Yuni’s original list, saying she is frustrated with the way Yuni’s idea has been used to demean new mothers. Unlike many videos on the list, which usually go viral for reacting to an unsuspecting creator’s video, Porter said her series only uses content with the original creator’s permission. She added that many mothers directly tag her in the series’ videos of hers.

«It’s a fine line because these things that can happen to your body during pregnancy can be traumatic and are a perfectly valid reason for not wanting children,» she said. “If I’m going to make a video about bodies in particular and show someone’s body, I’m going to make sure I have that mother’s consent first, like she’s going to post a video and make this acknowledgment like, ‘This is my body. It’s pretty crazy. The things that have happened in my body are pretty wild.’”

The list, and similar content like Porter’s «Free Birth Control» series, can be a helpful start in preparing for «all the possibilities» during pregnancy, Biggers-Stewart said. However, for Porter, the candid videos about the pregnancy and childbirth further reaffirmed her decision not to have children.

Despite its flaws, the list reminds viewers of the power of choice, Porter said. For centuries women have been expected to give birth and raise children. Porter said she hopes the content of her and other videos on the list encourage viewers to critically consider all aspects of parenting before having children, rather than making a decision they feel pressed.

“I have so much respect and reverence and admiration for the people who choose to go through with this, because it’s a great choice,” Porter said. “I hope people stop treating having children as an impulsive decision that everyone makes. I think that’s better for us and for the children too, because if every child that was born had parents who really loved them, I think the world would be a better place.»