18 May 2016

Michael Woodhead

Pregnant women and new mums are turning to Facebook mums’ groups for medical information, but the advice they receive is occasionally dangerous, a  study shows.

Peer-to-peer sharing of health information is a growing trend on social media and many women are using Facebook mothers’ groups as a source of support and advice, according to Sarah Smith, a pharmacist at Calvary Hospital, ACT.

In a study of the quality of health advice provided on 5 local Facebook mothers groups, Ms Smith and colleagues analysed 59 group posts that included 681 Facebook responses to women seeking health-related information.

The most common health advice sought by mothers was treatment for coughs and colds in infants (31%), teething (8%) and nappy rash (7%).

Discussions about medications most often related to painkillers (36%), cough and cold medications (20%) and antibiotics (8%).

However, the healthcare advice provided via mothers’ groups was predominantly anecdotal and one in 5 responses was inaccurate, the study found.

Worryingly, one in 50 of the responses included advice that would be harmful if followed.

Women who asked for healthcare advice online were only rarely advised to seek help from their GP or a pharmacist, and likewise there was seldom advice to refer to reputable online sources of health information.

Last month, it was reported that mothers’ groups on Facebook were being targeted by big business as a way of marketing childcare products direct to consumers.

According to Fairfax, companies such as Kimberley Clark spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to promote products such as Huggies to suburb-specific Facebook groups

Last Reviewed: 18/05/2016

Reproduced with kind permission from Australian Doctor