Descriptive, Qualitative Study of Women Who Use Mobile Health Applications to Obtain Perinatal Health Information

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Objective: To determine the extent to which perinatal mobile health applications (mHealth apps) are usable and desirable for women who seek information about childbearing.

Design: A descriptive, qualitative research design.

Setting: Through snowball sampling, participants were recruited from the social media sites Craigslist, Nextdoor, and Facebook and were asked to provide friends with a study invitation letter.

Participants: Sixteen women who were pregnant or in the postpartum period and had used mHealth apps participated in the study.

Methods: Semistructured interviews were conducted to determine how participants perceived and used mobile applications for information about pregnancy. Participants were then given a perinatal app and asked to find specific information with the use of a think-aloud process. Data were organized, coded, and then grouped into concept maps in an iterative process until themes emerged.

Results: The themes that emerged were as follows: mHealth Apps Are a Source of Support During Childbearing,mHealth Apps Are Functional Tools, and There Are Limitations of mHealth Apps. Participants felt supported when they used mHealth apps because the information was personalized and they could use the apps to connect with family and the online community. mHealth apps have perceived limitations because women sometimes feel disconnected from the information they receive, some providers and families do not support their use, and security issues may be a concern.

Conclusion: mHealth apps can be useful educational tools. Providers can support women by recommending select apps for use. Because of minimal oversight from app distribution platforms or health care organizations in the development and use of educational mHealth apps, a system to certify or verify mHealth apps should be developed.