The prenatal care visit structure has changed little over the past century despite the rapid evolution of technology including Internet and mobile phones. Little is known about how pregnant women engage with technologies and the interface between these tools and medical care, especially for women of lower socioeconomic status. Objective: We sought to understand how women use technology during pregnancy through a qualitative study with women enrolled in the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program. Methods: We recruited pregnant women ages 18 and older who owned a smartphone, at a WIC clinic in central Pennsylvania. The focus group guide included questions about women's current pregnancy, their sources of information, and whether they used technology for pregnancy-related information. Sessions were audiotaped and transcribed. Three members of the research team independently analyzed each transcript, using a thematic analysis approach. Themes related to the topics discussed were identified, for which there was full agreement. Results: Four focus groups were conducted with a total of 17 women. Three major themes emerged as follows. First, the prenatal visit structure is not patient-centered, with the first visit perceived as occurring too late and with too few visits early in pregnancy when women have the most questions for their prenatal care providers. Unfortunately, the educational materials women received during prenatal care were viewed as unhelpful. Second, women turn to technology (eg, Google, smartphone applications) to fill their knowledge gaps. Turning to technology was viewed to be a generational approach. Finally, women reported that technology, although frequently used, has limitations. Conclusions: The results of this qualitative research suggest that the current prenatal care visit structure is not patient-centered in that it does not allow women to seek advice when they want it most. A generational shift seems to have occurred, resulting in pregnant women in our study turning to the Internet and smartphones to fill this gap, which requires significant skills to navigate for useful information. Future steps may include developing interventions to help health care providers assist patients early in pregnancy to seek the information they want and to become better consumers of Internet-based pregnancy resources.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Health Informatics