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Online contraceptive discussion forums: a qualitative study to explore information provision
  1. Tom Courtenay,
  2. Paula Baraitser
  1. SH:24 Community Interest Company, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Tom Courtenay, SH:24 Community Interest Company, 35a Westminster Bridge Road, South Bank, London SE1 7JB, UK; thomascourtenay9{at}


Background Women in the UK spend up to 30 years avoiding pregnancy, and effective use of contraception requires detailed information and support. Online forums offer opportunities to discuss contraception with few restrictions. Analysis of these discussions may generate learning on the information needs and preferences of their users. We analysed contraceptive discussions on forums to explore content, motivation for engaging, behaviours observed and outcomes reported.

Methods We selected 50 threads across five English-speaking public forums, which contained more than 1000 contraceptive-specific threads. We generated a stratified sample of these threads (n=250) and then completed a qualitative thematic analysis.

Results Forum users seek urgent help, emotional support and the detailed accounts of others. The work of posting on forums is significant and includes framing the question to generate the desired response type, managing responses and assessing their value. Conversations were consistently framed in relation to healthcare and were important for preparing for, understanding and responding to consultations. Most of the technical information was accurate or corrected within the conversation. For most users this enquiry was part of a broader decision-making process and there was no evidence that users planned to make decisions based on forum discussions alone.

Conclusions Our analysis has implications for healthcare organisations that offer or signpost to online information on contraception. It suggests that improvements in the online ‘wrap around’ information are needed to help decide when to consult, prepare for the consultation, understand the information given and manage post-consultation questions.

  • contraception behavior
  • contraceptive effectiveness
  • health education
  • health services accessibility
  • reproductive health services
  • research design

This is an open access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited, appropriate credit is given, any changes made indicated, and the use is non-commercial. See:

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  • Contributors TC and PB contributed equally to this article.

  • Funding This research was self-funded by SH:24.

  • Competing interests PB is Clinical Director of SH:24 and is the moderator on the SH:24 contraceptive forum.

  • Patient and public involvement Patients and/or the public were not involved in the design, or conduct, or reporting, or dissemination plans of this research.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data availability statement All data relevant to the study are included in the article or uploaded as supplementary information. All applicable data are included in the article.

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