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Internet use by pregnant women seeking pregnancy-related information: a systematic review


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The Internet is now one of the most used sources of information for consumers of health information, and pregnant women are no different. This review had the primary purpose of investigating how pregnant women use the Internet to find information about pregnancy.


To answer this question, we conducted a systematic review. Scopus, Medline and EMBASE were searched in November 2014 for papers that contained the terms “Internet”, “pregnancy” or “health information seeking”. These terms could be found in the title, abstract, or keywords. hu%0″ data-order=”20″>Restrictions were placed on publication within 10 years, and the Peer Review Reports


For pregnant women, the Internet is a popular source for health information [ 1 – 5]. Accessibility has driven this trend. This is due to the ease of access. It is not uncommon to search for information about health before you meet with a health professional [ 3 5] or after your consultations [ 6]. Prenatal testing and medical monitoring are two of the most important aspects of a woman’s lives. Many pregnant women use the internet to find information, to get help with their doubts, and to make decisions about pregnancy [ 2 8, 8 and 9].

A survey conducted in the USA found that over three quarters of all childbearing mothers used the Internet to find information about their pregnancy and birth [ ] In other countries, widespread Internet search is also common. According to a Swedish study, most pregnant women had used the Internet at least once in order to find information about their pregnancy, childbirth or expected baby. A majority of the participants (79%) had searched the Internet during the month prior [ 11]. Internet search is a popular medium, but it is difficult to assess the accuracy and quality of the information retrieved. According to a British study, many people who search online for advice on health believe what they see. This is because the Internet’s health information isn’t always accurate [4, 13, 14] and current [15]. This lack of reliability is well known. An analysis of website evaluations of health websites revealed that 70% of them (70%) found that the quality of information on the Internet was problematic [ 4]. This could be due to a lack of clear guidelines. This can make it difficult for women to identify accurate and incorrect sources on the Internet. h%0″ data-order=”20″>A number of studies corroborate this finding and indicate that Internet users are hesitant about the reliability of health information they accessed [1617]. Information on the Internet can be confusing, dangerous, and overwhelming without proper guidance [ 18]. While the internet can be a great way to communicate your fears and doubts with others during pregnancy, it can also cause anxiety and unnecessary stress [ 19].

This review was intended to discuss access and use the Internet as a source of information for pregnant women. These questions were addressed:

  1. How often and if pregnant women search the Internet.
  2. h%0″ data-order=”10″>they seek.
  3. Search the internet to find out about the characteristics and stages that women experience during pregnancy.
  4. How reliable do you consider the information to be?


As a way to address the research questions, a systematic review was chosen. The systematic review is a method to establish the current evidence base for a topic. It involves three steps: (1) a thorough search for relevant research papers; (2) a critical assessment of the evidence; and (3) a synthesis the findings from the various papers. The Centre for Reviews and Dissemination [ 20] described the process. This method uses a very rigorous review process and guides researchers through each step.

Search strategy, search terms and database

We searched for information on internet use by pregnant women in November 2014. For inclusion, only papers published in English were allowed. This review was conducted by the Preferred Reporting Items [ 21] (See Additional 1)

The search terms were as follows: “Internet” or “Internet use” or “pregnancy” or “health information seeking” or “online” or “pregnancy related-information”. Scopus, Medline/Ovid, EMBASE/CINAHL, PubMed, Scopus and Medline were used for this study. We also searched for specific journals (BioMed central, including the Journal of Pregnancy and Childbirth), and reference lists of papers that were already retrieved. The author also performed general Internet searches by using combination of search terms from the Google search engine.

hu%0″ data-order=”20″>There were restrictions placed on publication to within 10 years. All papers published between November 22, 2004 and November 21, 2014 were eligible for inclusion. To ensure that the results related to current Internet usage during pregnancy were accurate, we imposed a time limit.

Selection criteria: exclusion and inclusion

hu%0″ data-order=”20″>Inclusion and exclusion criteria were established in advance in a written protocol. These were the criteria for inclusion in the review:

  • # Original research papers
  • # Papers focused on Internet use by pregnant woman.
  • # Papers were included if: (1) the participants were pregnant women; (2) they searched on the Internet for information about pregnancy or health information. ;
  • # Papers presented quantitative results such as percentages and frequencies.
  • # Papers were reported in English

Studies that presented qualitative results, reviews, editorials, papers at conferences, or studies dealing with other content than health information were disqualified. Qualitative papers were not included because the review focused on understanding patterns and characteristics of Internet use by pregnant mothers rather than qualitative experiences.

A selection of studies

Both the authors (PS and MCO) evaluated the eligibility of the papers found by the search strategy. The search strategy identified titles and abstracts as the criteria for selection. We decided to be cautious and include all papers that could report on pregnant women using the Internet to seek information about pregnancy. Both authors reviewed the full text of papers that were considered potentially relevant and rated them for inclusion. hu%0″ data-order=”20″>Disagreements about the inclusion or exclusion of particular studies were resolved by discussing the two authors. The table ‘Characteristics for excluded studies’ (Table 2) details those studies that met the inclusion criteria, but were later removed. Seven articles were selected for inclusion (see Fig. 1).


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