Complementary medicine products information-seeking by pregnant and breastfeeding women in Australia.

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Midwifery, 2019, 77 pp. 60 - 70
Issue Date:
Full metadata record
OBJECTIVE: Complementary medicine product use in pregnancy and lactation is common but little is known about women's health literacy and information-seeking regarding this. The objectives of this study were to identify and explore pregnant or breastfeeding women's sources of, and rationale for seeking complementary medicine products information, the types of information sought, and how women felt their health care practitioners can help them receive information that meets their needs. DESIGN: A qualitative research design consisting of in-depth interviews and focus group discussions was conducted. Data were thematically analysed. Participants also completed two validated health literacy screening tools. SETTING: Communities in regional and metropolitan settings in Sydney and Northern New South Wales, and South-East Queensland, Australia. PARTICIPANTS: Twenty-five women (n = 7 pregnant, n = 17 breastfeeding, n = 1 both pregnant and breastfeeding) who currently used complementary medicine products participated. Eleven women were pregnant with or breastfeeding their first child; 14 had between one and four older children. FINDINGS: Twenty-four participants had high health literacy according to the validated screening tools. Around half of the participants had used complementary medicine products for most of their lives and 17 had used complementary medicine products to resolve or manage complex health conditions in adulthood or childhood. Women sought complementary medicine products information from three main sources. 1) Practical and safety information on complementary medicine products was sought from health care practitioners and published research; 2) health care practitioners were also sources of information on reasons for complementary medicine products recommendations and physiological actions; and 3) sharing experiences of complementary medicine products use with other mothers appeared to help women understand what to expect when taking complementary medicine products, support social-emotional wellbeing and encourage participants to look after their own health. Participants strongly expressed the desire for their mainstream biomedical health care practitioners to be more informed in, and open to, complementary medicine product use in pregnancy and breastfeeding. KEY CONCLUSIONS: Participants' high health literacy skills may have influenced them to seek comprehensive information on complementary medicine products from a variety of professional and lay sources. Their use of complementary medicine products in pregnancy and breastfeeding was a natural consequence from previous positive experiences with complementary medicine products and/or therapies. IMPLICATIONS FOR PRACTICE: Maternity care practitioners can positively enhance their interactions with pregnant or breastfeeding women who use complementary medicine products by respectfully discussing use within the context of these women's values and health goals, and by furthering their own education in complementary medicine products' safety, efficacy and indications in pregnancy and breastfeeding.
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