Author(s): De Santis M, De Luca C, Quattrocchi T, Visconti D, Cesari E
The aim of this study was to evaluate if the Internet provides evidence-based information to women seeking information about teratogenic risk factors and women's risk perception. Furthermore, we evaluated the possible risk related to teratogen exposure in the study sample and analysed age, gravidity, educational level, geographic location, marital status and type of exposure compared to a control group made up of women who did not use the Internet to search for teratogen-related information.
Between October 2008 and June 2009, a questionnaire was administered to pregnant women calling our Teratology Information Service concerning a suspected teratogenic exposure.
Fifty-seven percent (n=116) of callers had used the Internet to find medical information about their exposure, while 43% (n=87) had not. Internet users had a medium-high level of education and consulted the Internet because of its convenience, usually early in their pregnancy. We verified the accuracy of the information the women obtained from the Internet and found that 59.5% (n=69) of women received evidence-based answers; 18.1% (n=21) were informed that their exposure was dangerous when it was not; 4.3% (n=5) were wrongly reassured; and the rest (n=18) were not able to interpret the data they found or found no relevant information.
Internet use during pregnancy is a widespread phenomenon as the Internet offers the opportunity to share apprehensions and doubts with other women, but it can often lead to increased and unjustified anxiety. Medical information published on websites cannot be considered a substitute for informed medical advice, and patients should not take any action before consulting with a health care professional.