Wednesday, May 23, 2012

How do you think social media is influencing choices women make about birth?

I am giving a presentation at the Breathing New Life maternity conference in Melbourne at the end of the week about how social media influences the choices women make about maternity care and birth.

Here's my abstract.

The Internet has become ubiquitous and social networking is out-growing any other form of communication. Health professionals cannot afford to ignore the social networking phenomenon because it is the way that maternity consumers are engaging with the world. Women are using social media tools to find and pass on health information, support each other and share experiences. They are becoming online activists, running campaigns for change and developing communities of interest. They are broadcasting their births as political statements. They are talking about health professionals and rating the care midwives and doctors provide. All these activities are influencing the decisions women make about their care, which in turn is changing the relationship between women and health professionals. Health professionals need to keep up to date with the communication changes that are going on so they do not miss vital opportunities to connect with the women they work with. For all the changes that are happening, health professionals still play a vital role in supporting women to make sense of the information and relationships they find online. 

I'd be really interested in hearing what you think about this. 

How have you seen social media influencing the choices women make about birth options and maternity care? 

If you are a pregnant woman or new mum, how have you used Twitter, Facebook etc to find information and make decisions about your care. 

If you are a health professional, what are you experiencing? How do you use social media to communicate with your patients and clients? 

The other thing I am looking for is research that supports (or disproves) the contention that women are engaging with social media to find information and make decisions about care. If you know of any good research or resources about this topic, I'd love to hear about them.     Thank you. 

Image: 'You're the nicest thing I've seen.'


Marianne said...

I think we may see women falling into some of the early adopter/later adopter types of categories that apply to all technology and social media. In my research now I get different responses from the young women I am interviewing- some are more Internet-savvy than others, and none have mentioned Twitter or Facebook. Granted, it is a small (11 subjects) qualitative study, but still, interesting. Most of the nursing students I have seen are on Facebook, but I don't hear much about Twitter at all, and Facebook is largely what you make it, in terms of what you like and follow. Most of them seem to follow each other and then the electronic source is almost an extension of the telephone.
Often, in class, if I mention events in the news or on television, nursing students seem not to know much at all, which further makes me wonder if their way of dealing with all the information available is just to ignore a lot of it :-)
Have you searched Scopus for social media research? Most of what I've seen relates to the internet as a whole, and there hasn't been much, but it might get you started.
Also, lots of mothers in the US are on iVillage (which I think has sites for other countries too?)that could be a place to look at- I have asked mothers on iVillage for their insights on questions about twin deliveries or tandem nursing, for instance, and gotten thoughtful replies.

Sarah Stewart said...

Thanks for your thoughts, Marianne. I use the Pew Internet Centre's research to get a lot of my information about the use of social media, although I have to be mindful that it is American based.

Here's an article I got sent recently:

starpath said...

Hi Sarah,
I see you are back into the work again without a break. I focused on the benefits of virtual communities for knowledge translation, and transfer. (There are many roles people take in a virtual community...'silent participant', 'follower-feeder',etc and knowledge can be fed into a different network by these particplants. Decision support, communication and psychosocial support are other functions of Virtual Communities. There is a lot of research in this area now. e.g. Jocelyn Cranefield (Vic. Univeristy).
I also love Pew research output and @SusannahFox on Twitter. Good luck with your presentation, and in reply to your question ...yes, but only for a realtively few women at the moment. (In case study area). Although this is a dynamic area.

starpath said...

Just looking at the Pew figures Sarah. As you pointed out, it would be surprising if 33% of NZ consumers are currently using YouTube, Facebook and Twitter to find medical information, research and share their symptoms, and offer opinions about doctors, treatments, drugs, and health plans. Dynamic situation though.
Agree with Marianne about online media (Facebook) being an extension of the phone.

Anonymous said...

Hi Sarah,
This sounds such an interesting presentation. I have no research studies to suggest, but have established a Facebook page with some local mothers to get feedback from women and families using the maternity service. The membership is growing, and we are now able to promote it's use via the midwives. The messages posted so far have been brilliant and as we have three birth centres, home birth and obstetric unit we hope that the feedback wil assist women in making choices. Let me know if you need more details....good luck! Sheena x

Sarah Stewart said...

@starpath Pew is always very useful, but you're right...must look for NZ, UK and Oz stats.

@Sheena Love to hear more about your work with FB...will give you a buzz on Skype for a chat. Thanks