Women who wish to become pregnant usually
seek educational methods such as books and magazines
for safe fertility and delivery. The Internet
is currently a common and acceptable method by
which patients seek answers to their questions.
Based on 33 websites about Internet usage by pregnant
women, 96.6% of women have Internet access
at home (
In the present study, we investigated the clinical characteristics of questions on an Internet website to provide guidelines and tips for consultation.
In this retrospective observational study, we analyzed the use of a free public Internet perinatal consultation website provided by the Ministry of Health and Welfare of Korea. This website provides information on pregnancy, delivery, child care, and infant health programs and provides a multilingual system for immigrants as well.
The website also offers perinatal consultations and assessments of gynecologic problems free of charge. On average, there were 25,192 logins per day. The service was accessible via a Korean web domain. Fourteen obstetricians conducted the consultations using a private personal computer. Pediatric doctors also consulted with patients about pediatric problems. The consultant had a duty to reply to each patient’s questions. Women asked questions on the site, and an automatic, immediate, repetitive alarm sounded on the consultant’s telephone until a reply was updated on the website. The consultant was required to complete the reply while on duty. Duty days covered all 365 days of the year. All replies were completed within 24 hours.
We evaluated 2,254 consultations from August 2006 to December 2009. A total of 122 consultations occurred during the initiation year, whereas 802 consultations were performed in 2009. Two research nurses and one obstetrician evaluated each consultation. We evaluated the questions based on Williams’ textbook categories and patients’ clinical characteristics.
Approval for this study was given by the Human Ethics Committee at SCH (Soonchunhyang University) Medical Center (Bucheon, Korea). We mention that no personal data is published and the privacy of the users was respected.
Results are presented as number and percentage values. Variables were expressed using the number and the percentage. Statistical data were generated with the SPSS version 12 for Windows (SPSS Inc., Chicago IL, USA).
The mean age of patients seeking consultation was 33.9 ± 13.2 years, and parity was 1.2 ± 0.5. Most of the consultations were with women (2,125, 94.3%) (
Sex distribution of clients
Age distribution of clients
Marital status of clients
Residential distribution of clients
Agreement to publicly share information
Gestational period of clients by trimester
|G.A.* by trimester||Number||Percentage|
Percentage of asked questions by subject.
In Korea, there are almost 80 known websites about pregnancy, delivery, and child care (
The Internet is useful for pregnant women and plays a role in decision-making. In a Web survey of Internet use in 24 countries, most women (97%) used the Internet for pregnancy-related questions (
The preconception period was also a common topic of consultation based on our data. Mankata reported that 5% of those asking questions were husbands, similar to our study (4.7%). Women in other countries were interested in and had many questions regarding pregnancy, but the topics in which they were interested were not the same. Pregnancy-associated questions are common on the Internet, which is a very cost-effective way to obtain information (
The Internet can provide good information, but that information is sometimes confusing and may be inaccurate. If the website evaluated in this study had an automatic system for differentiating questions based on keywords, trimester, previous related questions, and so forth, the questions could easily be categorized and the evaluation time could be reduced. Thus, such a system should be created for pregnancy-related questions and answers. Culture and health care systems might influence the nature of the most frequent questions. We inferred that Korean women are very anxious about the health of the baby, so they were very eager to obtain information about drug safety and preconception care.