Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department

Community and Family Health

Major Professor

Karen Perrin, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Ellen Daley, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Russell Kirby, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Leisa Stanley, Ph.D.


Maternity, knowledge retrieval, mixed-methods, internet survey


Background: Pregnancy is a significant period of time for individual women. Promoting optimal health behaviors and supporting individuals during critical periods of health (such as pregnancy) is an important aspect of public health research and practice. One way of supporting individuals in promoting positive health behaviors and outcomes is by increasing their health literacy. The ability to find appropriate health information is the first step in the health literacy process. This process of finding information in health contexts is called Health Information Seeking Behavior (HISB). Whereas, HISB has been extensively studied in chronic health contexts, little research has been conducted regarding maternity-related information seeking in women.

Purpose: The purpose of this study is to explore the pregnancy-related health information seeking behavior (HISB) of women while they were pregnant. This objective will be achieved through the following specific aims: (1) To describe topics sought, and (2) describe the sources of information used by women during pregnancy.

Methods: To achieve these aims, a multi-phase, descriptive, mixed methods, cross-sectional research design will be utilized. Phase I consisted of an online survey disseminated to collect HISB data on first-time mothers (N = 168) who delivered a child within the prior 12 months. Phase II consisted of in-depth individual interviews (n=26) with a sub-set of participants who completed the online survey assessment to check the consistency of the survey findings and further explore constructs related to HISB.

Findings: Using primary data collection, pregnant women seek information on numerous pregnancy and childbirth topics (average 18.7 topics). Of information they sought, women ranked the three most important topics to them. If looking at topics deemed ‘most important’ irrespective of rank positioning, the most frequently cited topics were ‘How My Baby Grew While I was Pregnant’, ‘Complications during Pregnancy’, and ‘What NOT to Eat during Pregnancy.’ If we look at only those topics ranked as being first ‘most important’, ‘What NOT to Eat during Pregnancy’ is replaced by ‘Natural Birth’. Findings from the qualitative phase of the study indicated that topics were salient for a number of reasons, including curiosity about pregnancy as a new experience, wishing to avoid poor health outcomes, and wanting to achieve maternity-related goals. Quantitative results indicated that women used multiple sources of information during pregnancy to meet their information needs (average 9.9 sources). Of information sources they used, women ranked the three used ‘most often’. If looking at sources used ‘most often’ irrespective of rank positioning, the most frequently used information sources were ‘My Doctor(s) that Took Care of Me while Pregnant,’ ‘Pregnancy and Childbirth Books,’ and ‘Pregnancy and Childbirth Mobile Applications.’ If we look only at those information sources ranked as used ‘most often’, ‘Pregnancy and Childbirth Books’ are no longer used as often, and ‘Midwive(s) Who Took Care of Me while Pregnant’ becomes important. Qualitative interviews indicate that women use information sources for a variety of reasons including ease of access, access to the lived experiences of other pregnant women, reliance on professional expertise, and anticipatory guidance.

Conclusion: This study found that pregnant women look for many different pregnancy and childbirth-related topics, using multiple sources of information to do so. There were multiple motivations driving information needs and use of information sources. Further, beliefs about the value of information sources were different given the motivation behind using them. Understanding pregnant women’s HISB may allow us to understand which translational practices better address individual information needs in ways that they are more likely to use. Further, if the motivation behind why women seek out information is understood and why they use certain information topics, better targeted and tailored health literate educational materials for pregnant and postpartum women may be created. Exploring health information seeking behavior of pregnant women is the first step in understanding and affecting health literacy in this priority population.

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