This Sands funded research aimed to understand how pregnant women used websites and apps to monitor and identify possible complications during their pregnancies. The research team surveyed and interviewed women and health professionals. 

The 12 month study is led by Dr Nicola Mackintosh, Associate Professor in Social Science Applied to Health, University of Leicester. This study is now complete.

You can find out how the study was conducted and what the researchers have found below.

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How was the research done?

Firstly, before women are discharged from their postnatal wards, they were asked to complete a survey to assess any safety concerns they had during their pregnancies and to understand if they used any websites and apps to help self-diagnosis.

Next, interviews were conducted with women and staff members to explore their experiences of using websites and apps and how they fit alongside other means of support, such as family advice, antenatal guidance and telephone helplines.

Lastly, guided by responses to the survey and interviews, the researchers chose a sample of websites and apps to understand differences in presentation of the information and the language and images used, particularly in relation to presentation of risk, self-care and help seeking advice.

Further information can be found here.


Researchers learnt that:

  • Women used a variety of different online resources to help monitor and identify when and where to get help. Accessing and understanding this information required a high level of digital skills.
  • Women's needs were most likely to be met when supported by professionals to choose a variety of resources reflecting women’s skills and needs.
  • Women found conflicting information hard to manage and staff worried about online harms and misinformation. Discussions at appointments about online privacy, trust and authority in health information could help staff and women work together to use digital resources to support care.

Implications for practice include acknowledging that online resources not only provide informational and emotional support for women, but also can improve communication between women and staff. They can be usefully bought into the clinic by staff in order to support discussions about women’s expectations, choices and safety concerns. 

Find out more by reading the key findings.

Research Paper

Mackintosh, N., Agarwal, S., Adcock, K., Armstrong, N., Briley, A., Patterson, M., Sandall, J. and (Sarah) Gong, Q., 2020. Online resources and apps to aid self-diagnosis and help seeking in the perinatal period: A descriptive survey of women's experiences. Midwifery, 90, p.102803.


Lead researcher: Dr Nicola Mackintosh, Associate Professor in Social Science Applied to Health, University of Leicester
Sum awarded: £62,838
Duration of study: 12 months, starting January 2019 

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