Preferences of women for web-based nutritional information in pregnancy

10 May 2017
Woman using a mobile phone

An Irish study has found that women's use of online nutritional resources puts them at risk of getting questionable dietary advice during pregnancy.

The study, published in the journal Public Health, looked at the web-based technology use of more than 100 pregnant women at a large Irish maternity hospital.

The authors aim was to examine the women’s use of web-based nutritional information and to explore their preferences.

However, they say the results highlighted concerns over the quality of information many women were accessing.

“Disconcertingly, our results indicate that there is minimal use of publically funded or academically supported resources; therefore, women may obtain nutritional information that is not scientifically-derived and may vary from current evidence-based guidelines.”

The authors say web-based technology is a widely-accessible and cost-effective means of delivering information to large population groups, while nutrition information for pregnant women is vital because research shows that many are not meeting intake recommendations for key micronutrients such as iron, vitamin D, iodine and folate.

The study revealed that all the women had access to the internet and more than 80% were searching online for information about nutrition during pregnancy.

“Individuals may lack the ability to critically appraise the accuracy and credibility of information provided in online resources. In a study which investigated the reliability of web-based medical advice, only 39% of the 500 sites examined provided correct information to answer the questions asked by users,” the authors say.

They say state-supported sites uniformly provide accurate medical information and this highlights the need to promote these resources to the public.

More than 85% said they would use a nutrition app or website during their pregnancy to get accurate information on safe and healthy nutrition.

When asked what they would most like to see in a nutrition pregnancy app, the most popular features were: recipes, exercise advice, personalised dietary feedback, and forums.  

You can read the full study looking at pregnant women's online use of nutrition resources here.