Red flags and symptom checkers for self-diagnosis in maternity

Posted by es213 at Mar 06, 2019 10:25 AM |
Perinatal morbidity and mortality are significant global public health issues. Traditionally, health communication methods to inform women about ‘red flags’ and early warning signs of perinatal complications and appropriate help seeking in pregnancy included face-to-face education, pamphlets, audio-visual training and mass media campaigns. Increasingly, there is recognition of the important role of online pregnancy resources. Websites and pregnancy apps are an integral source of information for many pregnant women, particularly in high-income countries. However, we know little about who uses these resources, and differences in types of resource used and how these digital resources ‘work’ to help women distinguish between normal pregnancy-related changes and what could be a sign of a complication.


Timescale January – December 2019
Funder : Sands (Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Charity)

Project aims

Our study aims to improve effective integration of digital resources into escalation of care strategies in the perinatal period. We want to find out:

  1. Who uses websites and apps to aid self-diagnosis and help seeking, and under what circumstances?
  2. What are the different types of website and apps used? What role do they play in women’s decisions whether to seek help (or not) and subsequent actions?
  3. How do these digital resources present risk and uncertainties, responsibilities and help seeking practices related to life threatening pregnancy complications?
  4. What role do online resources play in the clinical encounter and how do health care professionals work with women who present with concerns linked to use of websites and apps?

The research study

This 12 month study is based in three Trusts - two large urban and a smaller rural site -and involves three work phases. Firstly, prior to discharge from their postnatal wards, women will be 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 will be conducted with 30 women and 20 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 will choose 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.

The research team

Nicola Mackintosh (PI), Natalie Armstrong (CI), Sarah Qian Gong (CI), Shona Agarwal (researcher), Angie Doshani (CI / UHL), Kirsty Adcock (CI / Kettering General Hospital), Jane Sandall (CI / KCL), Annette Briley (CI / KCL)

PPI Advisory group

Sands, Good Things Foundation, Mama Academy, ICP Support, Positive Birth Movement

Filed under: ,

Share this page: