Mums and pregnant women are increasingly looking to Facebook to get advice on medications and health conditions from other mothers, according to a new study.
Researchers from the pharmacy department at Calvary Public Hospital, Canberra, looked at 55 posts by local mums made on Facebook pages or private groups, which had a combined membership of over 27,000.
The majority (64%) asked for treatment advice from fellow mums about a specific condition, while 11% asked for advice about the administration of medications, medication expiry dates, or length of timing of treatment.
One quarter of posts asked questions about a medication directly by name.
Discussions about medications most often related to analgesics, vaccination and antibiotics.
The majority of posts were seeking advice for treatment of acute conditions such as cold and flu in infants, followed by skin issues and teething.
Of the combined total of 825 responses, 157 were considered inaccurate by researchers while 2% were considered “potentially harmful” if suggestions were followed.
Responses in this category included suggestions that recommended too frequent administration of paracetamol or immunisation advice that was outside the recommended schedule.
The researchers also found a number of inappropriate medication suggestions from women who were pregnant and breastfeeding.
Meanwhile, only 1.3% of responses recommended consulting a pharmacist, and less than 1% recommended consulting a GP.
“This project highlighted that there is a definite need for healthcare professionals to provide clear direction on where new parents and pregnant women can access reputable, referenced and appropriate advice, particularly online,” the researchers said in their presentation to the National Medicines Symposium, held by NPS MedicineWise in Canberra this week.
In response to the findings, Calvary Public Hospital has acquired a pharmacist to present medicine information to mums who are part of the hospital’s group for new parents.