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Many Head to Unreliable Twitter as Prime Source on Birth Control
  • Posted April 1, 2024

Many Head to Unreliable Twitter as Prime Source on Birth Control

Folks are turning to Twitter for advice on contraception, but it doesn't look like they're getting answers from informed authorities, a new study finds.

Only about 6% of tweets on reversible birth control methods come from official news or health care sources, according to a review of thousands of posts.

On the other hand, more than 50% of tweets came from people using birth control and sharing their personal knowledge, researchers found.

“Individuals are making decisions about contraception based on anecdotal experience and advice from friends, family and social media users,” said senior researcher Dr. Deborah Bartz, an obstetrician/gynecologist with Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.

"Platforms like Twitter, now known as X, empower patients to access health information and make decisions about contraception that align with their values,” Bartz said in a hospital news release. “So how can we, as physicians, use social media to lead to better health encounters and ultimately better health outcomes?”

For the study, Bartz and her colleagues analyzed a random 1% sample of more than 4,400 tweets out of more than 457,000 posts related to prescription contraceptive methods between 2014 and 2019.

About 27% of tweets discussed how to choose a birth control method, while 21% covered side effects, particularly for IUDs and injectable birth control.

Roughly 6% of tweets asked for more information on contraception, and about 4% asked for advice.

IUDs were the most frequently discussed long-term birth control method, researchers found.

Unfortunately, fewer than 1 in 10 posts came from an authoritative source on contraception, results show.

Researchers did not evaluate the posts for accuracy.

The new study was published recently in the journal Contraception and Reproductive Medicine.

Bartz said the study shows that health professionals must engage with social media to prevent the spread of misinformation and misconceptions.

People who use social media are seeking health care information, and want to hear from experts online, Bartz said.

"I would love to work with healthcare professionals on how to craft effective messaging about contraception and deliver those messages via social media to reach as many patients as possible," Bartz said. "We know that educational content shared by health professionals is well-received by users. Overwhelmingly, we see that people want to hear from medical professionals on social media."

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease control and Prevention has more on birth control methods.

SOURCE: Mass General Brigham, news release, March 28, 2024

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