Social Network Advice During Pregnancy: Myths, Misinformation, and Sound Counsel


  • Patricia A. St. Clair Sc.D.,

    1. Patricia A. St. Clair is Assistant Professor, Department of Health Services SC-37, University of Washington, School of Public Health and Community Medicine, Seattle, WA 98195.
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  • Nancy A. Anderson M.D., M.P.H.

    1. Nancy A. Anderson is a pediatrician and postdoctoral fellow, University of Washington, School of Public Health and Community Medicine, Seattle WA.
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Abstract: One hundred eighty-five low-income, inner-city women were interviewed after they gave birth. They were allowed to report on up to 30 members of their social networks, including household members, relatives, and friends. Questions were asked regarding the types and nature of health advice given to them by these individuals, the relationship of each advisor, and his or her age and sex. Respondents received between 0 and 211 (median 20) pieces of advice related to pregnancy health from 0 to 19 (median 5) members of their social networks. Both folk beliefs and information aligned with accepted medical views of health promotion were communicated to individual women. Most advice rendered was sound, but often the rationale for the recommended health action was poorly understood. Some respondents received advice that, if followed, could be harmful to health. This suggests that for some low-income, inner-city women, social networks serve as important resources for health information. However, the advice they convey may cause unnecessary worry or come into conflict with recommendations of health care providers. Therefore, new educational strategies are required to address the informational needs not just of individual women, but of their social networks as well.