An increasing number of women trust the Internet for information about medication safety during pregnancy. This study aimed to evaluate the availability and accuracy of social media content on the perceived safety of medication use in pregnancy.
We performed a systematic search of posts related to medication safety during pregnancy in the Dutch language published on social media, blogs, and forums between May 2011 and April 2016 using Coosto, a tool for social media monitoring. The perceived safety in the posts was compared with the Dutch Teratology Information Service (TIS) safety classifications.
We included 1,224 online posts, which described 1,441 scenarios about medication safety in pregnancy. A total of 820 (57%) scenarios were in line with the TIS classification. Incorrect perception was higher for prescription medication compared to medication available over-the-counter (60% vs. 25%). Furthermore, the safety classification of medications with a TIS classification on strict indication or second line drugs (93%) and medications with insufficient knowledge on their safety during pregnancy (76%) was more likely to be incorrectly perceived by the public compared to medications with the TIS classification safe (24%).
Social media monitoring may be useful for surveillance of potentially unsafe use of medications in pregnancy. Many social posts related to medication safety during pregnancy provide inaccurate information. As this information may affect women's perceptions and decisions, accurate communication between healthcare providers and pregnant women regarding the benefits and risks of medications is vital.