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Pregnant women use the internet for medication safety information

Research establishes that advice on the internet powerfully influences pregnant women’s decisions about which medicines are safe for them to use.

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About a third of the women in the study were taking some form of medication during their pregnancy

Pregnant women are searching the internet for information on medication use in pregnancy because of a lack of specific recommendations, researchers have found.

The research, published in the Journal of Advanced Nursing, found that of the 284 women who took part in the study, just over a third were taking some form of medication when they conceived.

Around three quarters of the women studied said they had searched the internet to find out about the safety of using a specific medicine in pregnancy. Analgesics were the most commonly searched drug category.

The study also found that women most commonly searched for information on health service sites, because they were the most trusted, and rarely bought medicines from e-pharmacies.

More women with a higher level of education said they regarded buying medicine online as safe, compared with those of lower education.

Commenting on the findings, lead author Marlene Sinclair of the Centre for Maternal Fetal and Infant Research at the University of Ulster, said: “Pregnant women use the internet on a regular basis and in this small study, the power of the internet to influence women’s decision-making is clearly demonstrated when the majority said the information they retrieved either verified or reassured them it was OK to take the medication or influenced their decision not to take the medication.

“The lack of specific recommendations for medication use during pregnancy is challenging for healthcare staff and pregnant women who need robust evidence to make informed treatment decisions,” she added.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2017.20203551

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