Acquisition and utilization of information about alcohol use during pregnancy among Australian pregnant women and service providers

pregnant-216160_1280Because of an unknown safe level of alcohol consumption during pregnancy and inconsistent alcohol guidelines for pregnant women, it is unclear what information is being circulated with regard to alcohol use and pregnancy. This study aimed to explore how pregnant women and service providers acquire and utilize information about alcohol use during pregnancy.

The study involved 10-minute semi-structured interviews with 74 mothers of young children and focus groups with 14 service providers in urban and rural areas of New South Wales in 2008 and 2009.

  • Women and service providers expressed uncertainty about what the alcohol recommendations were for pregnant women.
  • Health care providers were inclined to discuss alcohol use with women they perceived to be high risk but not otherwise.
  • Women felt pressure to both drink and not drink during their pregnancies.
  • Those who drank discounted abstinence messages and reported a process of internal bargaining on issues such as the stage of their pregnancy and the type of beverages they consumed.
  • Those who abstained did so mainly because they were afraid of being held responsible for any problems with their pregnancies or infants that might have occurred from drinking.

Confusion surrounding the recommendations regarding alcohol use during pregnancy, inconsistency in addressing alcohol use with pregnant women, information overload, and a perceived culture of drinking appear to contribute to the high proportion of Australian women drinking during pregnancy.beer-199650_1280

Citation: Loxton D, Chojenta C, Anderson AE, Powers JR, Shakeshaft A, Burns L (2013). Acquisition and utilization of information about alcohol use during pregnancy among Australian pregnant women and service providers. Journal of Midwifery and Women’s Health, 58(5):523-530.

Contact person: Deborah Loxton Deborah.Loxton@newcastle.edu.au

Recruiting online: Lessons from a longitudinal survey of contraception and pregnancy intentions of young Australian women

Recruiting participants for health surveys has become increasingly difficult, particularly where young people are concerned. Traditional recruitment practices involve methods such as postal, telephone and face-to-face invitations, which may not be compatible with the high usage and reliance on more modern forms of technology amongst younger people.

In recent years researchers have made use of social media as a means of recruiting young participants into health surveys, but it is not yet clear whether this is a cost-effective approach, or whether it can provide samples that demographically reflect the general population, particularly for longitudinal research.

In the current study, the researchers assessed the effectiveness of online recruitment methods in recruiting women aged 18-23 for the Contraceptive Use, Pregnancy Intention, and Decisions (CUPID) Study. A variety of methods were used, including Facebook advertisements and posts, Twitter, and online forums, as well as face-to-face events, distribution of promotional material, and media releases.

Over the one-year recruitment period, a total of 3,795 women were recruited to take part in the online survey, almost double the original target of 2,000. Women were recruited at an average cost of $11 per participant, substantially lower than that for the pilot version of the study, which, using mailed invitations, attracted only 54 participants at a cost of around $100 each. The sample was found to be broadly representative of 18-23 year old women in Australia in terms of demographics, with the exception of a higher proportion of women who had completed year 12 education.

While the use of multiple approaches makes it difficult to determine the success of individual strategies, Facebook appears to be a particularly effective means of recruitment, with a large daily increase in respondents observed following changes to the placement of advertisements from the sidebar to the central newsfeed.

The findings from the current study suggest that it is possible to recruit a demographically representative sample of young women using online methods, and that this can be done at a reasonable cost.

This paper generated significant interest, with an invited commentary commissioned by the American Journal of Epidemiology. In this commentary Dr Jenifer Allsworth from the University of Missouri – Kansa City praised the study design, suggesting that the study was well conducted and made an important contribution to the literature.

Contact person: Melissa.Harris@newcastle.edu.au

Citation: Harris ML, Loxton D, Wigginton B, Lucke J. Recruiting online: Lessons from a longitudinal survey of contraception and pregnancy intentions of young Australian women. American Journal of Epidemiology, 2015. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwv006