Aim. To describe the pattern of use of the Internet as a source of health information by participants of antenatal classes.
Background. There is a lack of information about the frequency of Internet use amongst expectant mothers and fathers who attend antenatal classes.
Design. A cross-sectional descriptive study.
Methods. Women (n = 114) and men (n = 21) were recruited. Data were collected anonymously using a self-administered questionnaire, containing questions about Internet use, the frequency of that use, sources of information about pregnancy, preference over other non-Internet sources, positive and negative feelings generated due to the use of the Internet and willingness to receive instructions on Internet use.
Results. The average age of participants was 31·4 (SD 6·1) and their stage of pregnancy ranged from 24–38 weeks. 83·5% were expecting their first child. 93·5% reported that they used the Internet on a regular basis and no significant difference was found between men and women. Amongst Internet users, 97·7% sought, at some point, information on pregnancy on the Internet and 26·9% had done so in the last 24 hours. The Internet was the most popular source of information on pregnancy topics (18·5% of women and 25·8% of men used it as their primary source of information) after a physician. Commercial websites were more frequently used by people looking for information on pregnancy than sites maintained by not-for-profit organisations or professional unions.
Conclusions. The Internet is widely used as a source of information amongst participants of antenatal classes, both male and female. Approximately 95% have used it at some point to find information during pregnancy, but the majority (approximately 90%) had no knowledge of websites run by not-for-profit organisations and preferred commercial websites.
Relevance to clinical practice. Instead of disregarding the use of the Internet as a source of information during pregnancy, midwives should keep up to date and give their patients links to high-quality sites.