We’ve all done it – ask Google a medical question and end up on some forum where people (lay people like us, not doctors) are speculating about the subject. Cue blind panic.
According to a new study search engines like Google and Bing are more likely than any other source of information to provoke anxiety during pregnancy, according to new research.
A survey of 300 UK mums who have given birth in the past five years published in the UK Maternity Report by the UK’s leading private midwifery services provider, Private Midwives, revealed that search engines were more likely than any other source to provide information which causes further worry and anxiety.
The news comes following midwife, lecturer and advisor to BBC’s Call the Midwife, Terri Coates, revealed that the internet was stopping women from turning to their professional midwife for advice.
As many as 41% reported this was the case, while almost the same number said they had read information about pregnancy in online forums such as groups and chat boards which had caused them concern.
Despite this, 89% admitted that they had consulted the internet for non-emergency health advice or information about their pregnancy, and outside of midwife appointments, mums-to-be are more likely (53%) to turn to the internet for non-emergency advice or information than anyone or anything else.
Many will do this regularly throughout their pregnancy – more than 1 in 10 (13%) searched for advice online on a daily basis, while more than 1 in 4 (27%) did so every few days.
“Traditionally during pregnancy, women often found themselves receiving huge amounts of conflicting information – everything from well-meaning loved ones, to media and even strangers in the supermarket,” says Linda Bryceland, head of midwifery at Private Midwives.
“But the internet has opened up a whole range of new sources of information, which in many cases may not be medically qualified and given without context or taking into consideration women’s individual circumstances and medical backgrounds. What’s more, this is available at the touch of the button, on a whim – so it is not surprising that women are finding themselves logging off and feeling more worried than they were to begin with.”
If women have concerns or questions about their pregnancy, the best thing to do is to resist the temptation to search for more information or the answer online, she says, and instead to speak to a medical professional – whether that’s your midwife, the non-emergency NHS 111 phone line or their GP, who can provide professional, clinical information and guidance, which takes into account your medical history and individual circumstances. Makes sense.
Somewhat alarmingly, the survey also showed that as many as 90% of UK women who gave birth in the past five years experienced anxiety and worry during their pregnancy.