Today most women have access to the Internet. According to midwives Maria Bjelke and Anna-Karin Martinsson who presented their study at a session titled “Information / Education During Pregnancy”, 95% of pregnant women in the south of Sweden use the Internet to find information about pregnancy and birth. Of the women who turn to the Internet as a source, 64% experience anxiety after reading information online. According to a study carried out by Bjelke and Martinsson, there is a significant correlation between women accessing information about pregnancy and birth online and consequently contacting healthcare services.

How should I, as a midwife work with this information? With the widespread access to the Internet, it is important for midwives to inform expectant mothers about reliable sources on the Internet that they can trust, and also to properly inform them that a lot of the information online about pregnancy and birth is unreliable and often simply untrue. I also believe it’s important to assure pregnant women of the fact that most women go through their pregnancy without complications and continue to have a normal vaginal birth, and that serious complications in healthy pregnant women with non-complicated pregnancies are rare.

Bjelke and Martinsson’s study showed that most women who felt anxiety after going online for information about pregnancy or birth found relief from talking to their partner or a friend, or by bringing their concerns and anxiety up with their midwife at their next appointment. For me that means that I have to stay informed about what information pregnant women can find online, so that I can help ease their minds and process their worries and anxiety.

According to Helga Gottfreðsdóttir, Head of Midwifery Studies at the School of Health Sciences at University of Iceland,  most pregnant women in Iceland think that receiving information about the actual birth itself from the maternal health care centers during their pregnancy is either important or very important. Gottfreðsdóttir also found that with first-time mothers and women with mixed feelings about childbirth, more time is needed and should be allocated for information about the labor process during pregnancy. In a follow-up study, 62% of the women who had a instrumental delivery and 32% of the women who had a vaginal birth thought that they had received too little information about childbirth during pregnancy.

Ensuring pregnant women have access to reliable, factual information about pregnancy and birth is also crucial in order to combat the over-medicalization of childbirth. When women receive the latest research and information, they are empowered to make informed choices about their health and bodies and the health of their baby. Midwives need to listen to women, and women need information to make good choices during pregnancy and childbirth. As such, midwives have a professional responsibility to ensure pregnant women are properly informed and advised about all things related to pregnancy and childbirth.

Based on my personal experience, midwives often have limited time to properly discuss such issues with pregnant women and too many pregnant women to take care of at the same time. This must change! Midwives need to be able to meet the needs of all women and give them the information that they need, on their terms. To make this happen, more resources, political will and prioritization of maternal and newborn health is needed in order to ensure that all pregnant women have access to quality maternal health care that properly meets their needs and rights.

Cover Photo Credit: Practical Cures (Flickr/CC)’

NJF

Girls’ Globe is at the NJF Congress in Gothenburg, Sweden. Follow the conversations here on girlsglobe.org and through the hashtag #midwives4all on Twitter and Instagram. Learn more through the following links:

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