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Accuracy of information about the intrauterine device on the Internet

Published:November 04, 2015DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ajog.2015.10.928

      Background

      Intrauterine devices (IUDs) are highly effective methods of contraception, but use continues to lag behind less effective methods such as oral contraceptive pills and condoms. Women who are aware of the actual effectiveness of various contraceptive methods are more likely to choose the IUD. Conversely, women who are misinformed about the safety of IUDs may be less likely to use this method. Individuals increasingly use the Internet for health information. Information about IUDs obtained through the Internet may influence attitudes about IUD use among patients.

      Objective

      Our objective was to evaluate the quality of information about IUDs among World Wide Web sites providing contraceptive information to the public.

      Study Design

      We developed a 56-item structured questionnaire to evaluate the quality of information about IUDs available through the Internet. We then conducted an online search to identify web sites containing information about contraception and IUDs using common search engines. The search was performed in August 2013 and web sites were reviewed again in October 2015 to ensure there were no substantial changes.

      Results

      Our search identified >2000 web sites, of which 108 were eligible for review; 105 (97.2%) of these sites contained information about IUDs. Of sites, 86% provided at least 1 mechanism of the IUD. Most web sites accurately reported advantages of the IUD including that it is long acting (91%), highly effective (82%), and reversible (68%). However, only 30% of sites explicitly indicated that IUDs are safe. Fifty percent (n = 53) of sites contained inaccurate information about the IUD such as an increased risk of pelvic inflammatory disease beyond the insertion month (27%) or that women in nonmonogamous relationships (30%) and nulliparous women (20%) are not appropriate candidates. Among sites, 44% stated that a mechanism of IUDs is prevention of implantation of a fertilized egg. Only 3% of web sites incorrectly stated that IUDs are an abortifacient. More than a quarter of sites listed an inaccurate contraindication to the IUD such as nulliparity, history of pelvic inflammatory disease, or history of an ectopic pregnancy.

      Conclusion

      The quality of information about IUDs available on the Internet is variable. Accurate information was mixed with inaccurate or outdated information that could perpetuate myths about IUDs. Clinicians need knowledge about accurate, evidence-based Internet resources to provide to women given the inconsistent quality of information available through online sources.

      Key words

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