Exploring Women's Experiences in Accessing, Understanding, Appraising, and Applying Health Information During Pregnancy

Cheryl A Vamos, Laura Merrell, Linda Detman, Judette Louis, Ellen Daley
Journal of Midwifery & Women's Health 2019, 64 (4): 472-480

INTRODUCTION: This study explored pregnant women's experiences in accessing, understanding, evaluating, communicating, and using health information and services during pregnancy.

METHODS: Pregnant participants (aged 18-45 years) were recruited from an obstetrics and gynecology department of a large urban training hospital. Focus groups were facilitated by a moderator's guide developed from health literacy domains (access, understand, evaluate, and communicate and use), audio recorded, transcribed, and uploaded into ATLAS.ti. Constant comparative and thematic analysis were employed.

RESULTS: Participants (N = 17) were predominantly Hispanic (53%), married (67%), college educated (87%), employed (80%), insured (100%), and nulliparous (59%). Health care providers and online and digital sources were preferred sources of information. Participants' understanding was facilitated by plain language, pictures and other visuals, numbers and statistics, and tailored information. Participants evaluated information credibility by source (health care provider, advertisement, multiple sources) and personal circumstances (eg, health history, gestational age). In addition, these women used the information to communicate with health care providers, family, and partners and to change health-related behaviors.

DISCUSSION: Participants described rich, contextual health literacy experiences. Future interventions that maximize access to health care providers and online and digital sources, while ensuring materials are easy to understand, convenient, and patient centered, could facilitate informed decision making during this critical period. Future prenatal education and counseling interventions could be developed and evaluated using established health literacy principles to ensure that information is accessible, understandable, and actionable.

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