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Internet Use in Pregnancy Informs Women’s Decision Making: A Web-Based Survey

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Abstract:  Background: 

Internet access and usage is almost ubiquitous, providing new opportunities and increasing challenges for health care practitioners and users. With pregnant women reportedly turning to the Internet for information during pregnancy, a better understanding of this behavior is needed. The objective of this study was to ascertain why and how pregnant women use the Internet as a health information source, and the overall effect it had on their decision making. Kuhlthau’s (1993) information-seeking model was adapted to provide the underpinning theoretical framework for the study. Methods: 

The design was exploratory and descriptive. Data were collected using a valid and reliable web-based questionnaire. Over a 12-week period, 613 women from 24 countries who had confirmed that they had used the Internet for pregnancy-related information during their pregnancy completed and submitted a questionnaire. Results: 

Most women (97%) used search engines such as Google©to identify online web pages to access a large variety of pregnancy-related information and to use the Internet for pregnancy-related social networking, support, and electronic commerce (i.e., e-commerce). Almost 94 percent of women used the Internet to supplement information already provided by health professionals and 83 percent used it to influence their pregnancy decision making. Nearly half of the respondents reported dissatisfaction with information given by health professionals (48.6%) and lack of time to ask health professionals questions (46.5%) as key factors influencing them to access the Internet. Statistically, women’s confidence levels significantly increased with respect to making decisions about their pregnancy after Internet usage (p < 0.05). Conclusions: 

In this study, the Internet played a significant part in the respondents’ health information seeking and decision making in pregnancy. Health professionals need to be ready to support pregnant women in online data retrieval, interpretation, and application. (BIRTH 37:2 June 2010)
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Keywords: Internet; decision making; information need; pregnant women; web-based questionnaire

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2010-06-01

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