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Searching for information on the risks of combined hormonal contraceptives on the internet: a qualitative study across six European countries

Searching for information on the risks of combined hormonal contraceptives on the internet: a qualitative study across six European countries

Gomes Alves, Paula ORCID: 0000-0002-1406-5724, Petersen, Irene ORCID: 0000-0002-0037-7524 and Stevenson, Fiona ORCID: 0000-0003-2139-2309 (2019) Searching for information on the risks of combined hormonal contraceptives on the internet: a qualitative study across six European countries. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 21 (3):e10810. ISSN 1439-4456 (Print), 1438-8871 (Online) (doi:https://doi.org/10.2196/10810)

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Abstract

Background: Searching for health information online is increasingly common and is an obvious source of information about oral combined hormonal contraceptives (CHCs) and their risks. However, little is known about how publicly available websites address the risks of CHCs, particularly venous thromboembolism (VTE).

Objective: The aim was to explore the information available to women about VTE and other risks of CHCs on websites available through commonly used search engines.

Methods: A qualitative study was conducted to explore whether and how websites about CHCs in Denmark, Germany, Netherlands, Slovakia, Spain, and the United Kingdom make reference to VTE and other CHC risks. A systematic search procedure was adopted across the six countries, based on relevant keywords. The search was carried out using the Google search engine by fluent/native speakers of each language. A content analysis approach was conducted to extract information from the selected websites.

Results: A total of 357 websites were reviewed. Nearly all (343/357, 96.1%) the websites mentioned VTE as a risk of CHCs, with approximately half referring to other side effects as well. One-fifth (92/357, 25.8%) of the websites provided suggestions about the best contraceptive method to use, and only a minority (23/357, 6.4%) recommended women discuss CHCs with their health professionals. Sites were generally run by the media (110/357 30.8%) or medical services from nongovernmental organizations (140/357, 39.2%). Only a minority of websites referred to organizations such as the European Medicines Agency (11/357, 3.1%).

Conclusions: Despite the large number of websites containing information about oral CHCs and their risks, particularly VTE, only a limited number referred to information from accredited health agency sources. We argue this is a missed opportunity for accredited health agencies to share high-quality information to assist women using CHCs to make informed decisions about contraception.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: oral combined hormonal contraceptives, venous thromboembolism, risks, information sources, internet, health information, qualitative research, content analysis
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Faculty / Department / Research Group: Faculty of Education, Health & Human Sciences
Faculty of Education, Health & Human Sciences > Department of Psychology, Social Work & Counselling
Last Modified: 01 May 2020 13:17
Selected for GREAT 2016: None
Selected for GREAT 2017: None
Selected for GREAT 2018: None
Selected for GREAT 2019: None
Selected for REF2021: REF 1
URI: http://gala.gre.ac.uk/id/eprint/26221

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