The future of any society lies with the unborn and young children of that generation: pregnant women are an important part of any society because the outcome of any pregnancy directly affects the hope and future of any society. Provision of reliable pregnancy-related information to pregnant women is especially important if the outcomes of these pregnancies are to be healthy. Africa, particularly Southern African nations, has in the past years recorded a high number of maternal and infant mortality rates, prevalence of HIV/AIDS, diverse forms of abuse, poverty and the increased incidence of communicable and non-communicable diseases. These problems also affect pregnancies.
Information monitoring and current awareness services could assist with the promotion of patient-centered healthcare systems, provision of reliable and new information and a decrease in the maternal and infant mortality rate through the provision of relevant pregnancy-related information to pregnant women. The data for this study was collected over a period of three months (between August and October 2015). The study involved pregnant women visiting two private medical practices of gynaecologists in Pretoria, South Africa.
An explanatory sequential design mixed methods research was adopted for the study (involving both quantitative and qualitative approaches in data collection and analysis). Thirty-seven pregnant women were given copies of the questionnaire to complete and eleven of the thirty-seven were interviewed for the purpose of providing in-depth understanding and explanation of the participants' experiences. The McKenzie two-dimensional model of information practices in everyday life information seeking (ELIS) guided this study.
Findings from the study show that pregnant women have some unique information needs regarding specific uncertainties about their pregnancies, among others on how age can affect their pregnancy because of the possibility of Down syndrome, high-risk pregnancy and the well-being of the fetus. There are also many overlaps in information needs, such as needs for information on breastfeeding, safety and well-being of the fetus, medication, diet and supplements, to mention a few. The study confirmed that pregnant women need information throughout and after the pregnancy, hence they desire information on an on-going bases.
Problems pregnant women encounter when seeking for information include contradictory and/or unclear advice and information from their information sources, feelings of embarrassment to ask questions on pregnancy, insufficient discussion time with their healthcare providers and lack of access to information sources other than the internet. The study found that current awareness services and information monitoring could benefit pregnant women, because they showed interest in receiving new pregnancy-related information on safety during pregnancy, new trends regarding pregnancy, experiences and advices from other mothers. They also desired to be updated about free access to pregnancy-related information in order to meet their pregnancy-related information needs on among others medication, diet and supplements, disease and treatment, labour and method of delivery.
This study adapted the McKenzie two-dimensional model of information practices in ELIS adding two other modes of information seeking (namely directed monitoring, passive and accidental encountering). In addition, two new models were developed in the course of the study to deal with key activities of information behaviour that stood out from the findings of this study and pregnant women's pre and postnatal information needs and potential of information monitoring.
This study recommends that information monitoring and current awareness services should promote monitoring of new information and generate more reliable health information for pregnant women at little or no cost for the purpose of staying abreast with new information, which could assist in reducing their uncertainties about pregnancy. More consideration should be given to mobile devices as a channel of communication with pregnant women and for information monitoring.
This study also recommends more investigation into both expressed and unexpressed information needs of pregnant women in a social context, taking positioning theory into consideration. Social context could further reveal the ELIS of pregnant women. Social context tends to shed light on the area of needs of pregnant women especially through their discussions with other people (chatting). In addition, their discursive interactions with other people especially their healthcare providers and family members can reveal the relevant health topics or pregnancy-information needed.