New research has suggested search engines are more than likely to provoke anxiety during pregnancy than other sources of information.

In a survey by Private Midwives of 300 UK mums who have given birth in the past five years, 41% agreed that search engines are more than likely to cause worry and anxiety, with 38% saying 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.

Linda Bryceland, head of midwifery at Private Midwives, said: “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.

“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.”

Bryceland also advised expectant mothers who may have questions during their pregnancy to speak to a medical professional – whether that’s their midwife, the non-emergency NHS 111 phone line or their GP – rather than turning to the internet.

The top 5 information sources that worry mums-to-be:

  1. Search engines – 41%
  2. Online forums / groups (e.g. parenting forums) – 38%
  3. People who aren’t medical professionals who I know – 32%
  4. Blogs – 27%
  5. Strangers – 16%

In a separate story in March this year, Digital Health News reported on how Public Health England (PHE) had launched a new service delivering approved breastfeeding advice via Amazon’s Alexa.

Through Start4Life’s ‘Breastfeeding Friend’, users can ask the cloud-based assistant a variety of questions about breastfeeding and receive answers tailored to the age of the baby.

According to PHE, the service marks the first time parents have been able to receive NHS-approved breastfeeding advice via a hands-free digital platform.