Beliefs and advice‐seeking behaviours for fertility and pregnancy: a cross‐sectional study of a global sample
Walker et al., JHND Early View
Pregnancy can motivate individuals to adopt lifestyle behaviours that protect the health of their offspring. The aims of the present study were to explore men’s and women’s beliefs about lifestyle, fertility and pregnancy, as well as where they seek advice.
Participants (2185 women and 221 men, six unspecified) from 104 countries completed a questionnaire that explored their beliefs about what was important for a healthy pregnancy and their advice‐seeking behaviours. Recruitment was via a Massive Open Online Course entitled ‘Food as Medicine’, with food, nutrient and health content. Comparisons of categorical data were performed using a chi‐squared test (P = 0.05).
Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables and not smoking (both 93.7%) were the most frequently and equally ranked in the top‐five factors for a healthy pregnancy. Taking prenatal supplements (26.8%) was considered to be less important. Participants in Westernised countries ranked not smoking or drinking alcohol as being significantly more important than those in other countries. Overall, doctors (47.7%) were the most common source of fertility and pregnancy advice. Larger proportions of those aged <40 years used the Internet (<40 years 44.1%, >40 years 18.2% χ2 = 152.7, P < 0.01) and social media (<40 years 16.1%, >40 years 3.6%; χ2 = 110.18, P < 0.01) for health information.
There is disconnection between beliefs and actions regarding the lifestyle behaviours considered to be important for a healthy pregnancy, particularly nutrition. Pregnancy advice‐seeking has evolved, with younger men and women utilising the Internet and social media. Health professionals must consider new communication strategies to deliver evidence‐based lifestyle advice, particularly for younger men and women and where access to healthcare is limited.