Background: Pre-natal and post-natal periods are times when many women actively seek health information from multiple sources, including the Internet. However, little is known about how pregnant women and mothers of young children seek and process online pediatric health information.
Objective: To explore why and where mothers of young children look for online health information and how they determine if the information they receive is trustworthy.
Methods: Focus groups were conducted in a Southeastern US city to provide an in-depth exploration of web-related behaviors and beliefs among mothers who work inside and outside of the home. Data from the focus groups were coded using deductive and inductive coding schemes and content was analyzed for the existence of themes.
Results: Twenty mothers of young children participated in four focus groups. Most participants sought information on the Internet during pregnancy and nearly all sought online information after their child was born, primarily to diagnose or treat pediatric conditions and to seek advice on parenting and development. Participants mainly used commercial information websites for health information and many expressed disdain for commercial product websites. Many also expressed concerns about the reliability of health information on the web and described strategies for determining how much they trust each website.
Conclusions: Women appear to be high information seekers during pregnancy and the first few years following delivery, and this period represents an important window of time for providing online health information. Participants suggested that online information sources and motives for providing online information should be clear in order to increase perceptions of trust. Participants expressed preference for online clinical health information that is presented by clinical professionals, and online parenting advice that is presented from other parents.