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What Is the Impact of the Internet on Decision-Making in Pregnancy? A Global Study

Authors

  • Briege M. Lagan PhD, RM,

    1. Briege M. Lagan is a Research Fellow, Marlene Sinclair is a Professor of Midwifery Research, and W. George Kernohan is a Professor of Health Research at the Institute of Nursing Research, University of Ulster, Jordanstown, United Kingdom.
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  • Marlene Sinclair PhD, RM,

    1. Briege M. Lagan is a Research Fellow, Marlene Sinclair is a Professor of Midwifery Research, and W. George Kernohan is a Professor of Health Research at the Institute of Nursing Research, University of Ulster, Jordanstown, United Kingdom.
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  • W. George Kernohan BSc, PhD

    1. Briege M. Lagan is a Research Fellow, Marlene Sinclair is a Professor of Midwifery Research, and W. George Kernohan is a Professor of Health Research at the Institute of Nursing Research, University of Ulster, Jordanstown, United Kingdom.
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  • This study was supported by a postgraduate studentship award from the Department for Employment and Learning, Belfast, United Kingdom.

Address correspondence to Dr. Briege M. Lagan, PhD, RM, 11 Inishowen Park, Portstewart, County Londonderry BT55 7BQ, UK.

Abstract

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)

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