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Very little is known about pregnant women’s sources of information about pregnancy and childbirth, including Internet use.
Nearly two-thirds (64%) of pregnant women access online information from a smartphone in a typical week, and 82% go online from a computer. Mobile experience is less valued for accessing online pregnancy information than laptops or desktops. 64% of users said a computer is an “excellent” way to access pregnancy and birth information, compared with 46% of tablet users, 43% of smartphone users, and 42% or iPod Touch users. Only 22% of users rated regular mobile phones with text messaging capability and Internet access as an “excellent” way to access information. Women are turning to the Internet for help choosing their maternity care providers and hospitals. Insurance coverage was the leading factor driving decisions about where and with whom to give birth, but the Internet played a significant role. 69% of women reported that favorable information on websites was a factor in choosing the hospital where they gave birth. Likewise, 69% of women reported that high ratings on websites were a factor in selecting their doctor, midwife, or group practice. Many, but not most, pregnant women have access to health information technology for communication with care providers and care coordination. Most considered online access to electronic maternity and health records “very important” (41%) or “somewhat important” (37%).

Women’s perceptions of value and trustworthiness of online sources vary. Mothers rated traditional sources of information about pregnancy and birth– maternity care providers and also childbirth education classes – as highly trustworthy, followed by health plans, general medical or health websites, state Medicaid programs, and other state or federal government agencies.
Among those who had used specific sources of pregnancy and birth information, maternity care providers and childbirth education classes also were rated as most valuable sources for this purpose, followed by websites for pregnancy women, apps, and general health or medical websites.
Women were also asked about their use of several different kinds of online resources as sources of information about pregnancy and birth, and those who used each type of resource were asked how valuable it had been for that purpose. Over two-thirds of women who used them for this purpose found online video sites (68%), Facebook (67%) and Wikipedia (67%) “somewhat” or “very” valuable. Existing studies have small sample sizes, survey specific populations such as women with high-risk pregnancies, or are older and do not reflect changing practice. Women also reported using tablet devices (35%), regular mobile phones (33%), and iPod Touch devices (21%) to get online. Among devices, women were most likely to consider a laptop or desktop computer as the best way to access online information about pregnancy and birth.
Government agencies and employers were rated as least valuable by those who had used them as sources of information about pregnancy and birth. While conducting online searches, most women “always” or “usually” felt reassured to make appropriate health care decisions (72%) and confident to raise new questions or concerns with their maternity care providers (59%). During their pregnancies, most women (65%) had watched television programs created specifically to show women’s labor and birth experiences, with 21% of all mothers indicating that they watched regularly.

The Listening to MothersSM III surveys provide the most extensive and recent data on these matters among pregnant women in the United States. Only a small portion of women “always” or “usually” had negative emotions such as feeling overwhelmed (27%), frightened (17%), frustrated (13%) or confused (11%) by the information they found online. Whereas 59% of the first-time mothers took classes, just 17% of those who had given birth at least once before took classes.
Of those who watched regularly or sometimes, 56% said that the programs helped with feeling excited about the upcoming birth, 50% that they helped to understand what it would be like to give birth, 39% that they helped her clarify her preferences for birth, 35% that they helped her learn about medical terms and technology, and 25% that it caused her to worry about her upcoming birth. These nationally representative data are from an initial survey of 2400 women, 18-45, who had given birth to a single baby in U.S.
However, 32% of experienced mothers did not take them in the present pregnancy, but had done so during a previous pregnancy.
Just over half (53%) of all mothers reported taking a childbirth education class at some point, while nearly half (47%) had never done so. Childbirth Connection’s Listening to MothersSM III surveys were conducted by Harris Interactive and funded by the W.K.

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