Predictors of health anxiety during pregnancy

Julie Prescott, Lynn Mackie, Amy Leigh Rathbone


Background: The internet has become a quick, easy and accessible source for health-related information. Women are more likely to search for health information online and this likelihood increases further during pregnancy. Searching online for health-related information can have both positive and negative impacts upon levels of health anxiety during pregnancy. This research initially explored how health impacts heath anxiety during pregnancy. Secondly, the sources of offline support that predict health anxiety and thirdly, how online health seeking behaviour predicts health anxiety.
Methods: The sample consisted of 159 pregnant women who completed an online questionnaire to investigate significant predictors of health anxiety during pregnancy.
Results: Multiple regression analyses showed health anxiety increased during pregnancy when medical complications had been experienced in a previous pregnancy and if under medical treatment for a non-pregnancy related condition. Interestingly, health anxiety was not affected by medical complications in the current pregnancy. Knowing when you have had enough information and repeating searches were significant predictors of levels of health anxiety, whereas using the same or different sources was not.
Conclusions: For many the internet is a convenient platform for information however the information is not always accurate, reliable or helpful. Relevant health care professionals should continue to sign-post pregnant women to validated health information websites with the aim to reassure women during pregnancy. Further research in this area would benefit from exploring how women use the internet when pregnant and devising guidelines which can be followed and recommended when doing so.