• decision-making;
  • information seeking;
  • Internet;
  • online focus groups;
  • pregnant women

Abstract:  Background:  Women need access to evidence-based information to make informed choices in pregnancy. A search for health information is one of the major reasons that people worldwide access the Internet. Recent years have witnessed an increase in Internet usage by women seeking pregnancy-related information. The aim of this study was to build on previous quantitative studies to explore women’s experiences and perceptions of using the Internet for retrieving pregnancy-related information, and its influence on their decision-making processes.

Methods:  This global study drew on the interpretive qualitative traditions together with a theoretical model on information seeking, adapted to understand Internet use in pregnancy and its role in relation to decision-making. Thirteen asynchronous online focus groups across five countries were conducted with 92 women who had accessed the Internet for pregnancy-related information over a 3-month period. Data were readily transferred and analyzed deductively.

Results:  The overall analysis indicates that the Internet is having a visible impact on women’s decision making in regards to all aspects of their pregnancy. The key emergent theme was the great need for information. Four broad themes also emerged: “validate information,”“empowerment,”“share experiences,” and “assisted decision-making.” Women also reported how the Internet provided support, its negative and positive aspects, and as a source of accurate, timely information.

Conclusion:  Health professionals have a responsibility to acknowledge that women access the Internet for support and pregnancy-related information to assist in their decision-making. Health professionals must learn to work in partnership with women to guide them toward evidence-based websites and be prepared to discuss the ensuing information. (BIRTH 38:4 December 2011)