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Integrating social media into routine midwifery services: Maternity Direct+

02 July 2017
Volume 25 · Issue 7


The use of social media to disseminate and receive health messages has increased over the past ten years, and many women use social media to access pregnancy information. However, the NHS has been slow to integrate consumer facing Internet technologies into routine care services. This article describes an innovative social media project, Maternity Direct+, an Internet midwife employed by Basildon and Thurrock University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. The Internet midwife uses Facebook to disseminate health messages and answer non-urgent questions from pregnant women, mothers up to 28 days after birth, and women planning a pregnancy. Findings from the project evaluation demonstrated a high level of demand for a responsive, evidence-based, non-urgent information and advice service for pregnant women and new mothers, and high levels of user satisfaction. The authors conclude that social media can be integrated into routine midwifery services and used to complement existing communication channels.

The term, ‘social media’ is defined as a group of Internet-based applications (programmes) that allow the creation and exchange of user generated content (Kaplan and Haenlein, 2010). Social media includes sites for social networking (Facebook and Twitter), professional networking (LinkedIn), media sharing (YouTube and Flickr), content production (blogs) and knowledge and information aggregation (Wikipedia) (Ventola, 2014).

Participation in social media by the general public and the use of social media to disseminate and receive health messages has increased significantly over the past ten years. Many women use social media to access information during pregnancy. For example, 97% of women in the US who had given birth the previous year reported using the Internet as a source of information about pregnancy and childbirth—an increase from 76% in 2005 (Childbirth Connection, 2013). While less is known about patterns of Internet access among pregnant women in the UK, Internet users as a percentage of the population are relatively similar to the US (Internet Live Stats, 2016a and 2016b), and research suggests that 23% of all Internet users aged over 16 years in the UK had used the Internet to find health information the previous week (Ofcom, 2015).

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