Social Media Users Turn to Twitter for Birth Control Guidance, Education


The authors note that these findings provide opportunities for health care professionals to utilize social media to reach patients and share accurate information.

Young woman on social media -- Image credit: Urupong |

Image credit: Urupong |

After looking at thousands of tweets about contraceptive methods from the years 2014 to 2019, study results indicated that they were most frequently posted by consumers, rather than health care or news sources. The investigators note that patients are likely to look at social media for guidance and to be educated on contraceptive methods and their potential adverse effects (AEs); however, information—especially on social media—may not always be accurate.1

"Platforms like Twitter, now known as X, empower patients to access health information and make decisions about contraception that align with their values. We see that individuals are making decisions about contraception based on anecdotal experience and advice from friends, family, and social media users,” said Deborah Bartz, MD, MPH, associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, attending physician in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at BWH, in the press release. “So how can we, as physicians, use social media to lead to better health encounters and ultimately better health outcomes?"1

The current study comes following research which analyzed 4434 tweets from 2006 to 2019 that were related to reversible contraception methods. The tweets were sorted by different contraceptive methods and topics, such as efficacy, accessibility, and safety. In addition, the tweets were also organized by theme, source—whether it was from a health care professional, news source, or consumer—and those who are addressing evidence rather than providing advice.1,2

Results from the study indicated that among birth control methods, the intrauterine device (IUD) was the most commonly referenced method (45.9% of tweets), and long-acting methods were often referenced more than short-acting options (58% vs 42%, respectively). In addition, the annual proportion of tweets relating to long-acting reversible contraception methods had gradually increased over time. Further, of tweets that mentioned a single contraceptive method, the greatest proportion was negative (65,339 of 160,713 tweets; 40.66%); however, tweets that mentioned long-acting methods were approximately twice as likely to be positive compared with short-acting methods (19.65% vs 10.21%, respectively).1,2

The current study, which is a follow-up of the previous study, found that approximately 26.7% of tweets discussed decision-making around contraception methods, with 20.5% also discussing AEs, and like the other study, most notably IUDs; however, the depot medroxyprogesterone acetate shot was also of interest for consumers. About 6% of tweets were looking for more information on contraception, and 4% specifically asked for advice. These tweets were primarily posted by consumers and patients (50.6%), whereas 6% were by health care professionals or official news sources, but journalists and news sources tweeted more frequently than health care professionals. In addition, the investigators had also noted that social media users reported selecting particular birth control methods based on information from non-clinical sources, such as family, friends, or social media.1,3

The authors also noted that the tweets included in the study were only from English-speaking users, meaning that tweets from non-English speakers were not taken into consideration for the study. In addition, tweets were not analyzed for accuracy, which is something the authors note will be beneficial information in further research. Because the study demonstrated that users were looking for advice or education on contraceptive methods, authors note that this is an opportunity for health care professionals to utilize social media as a way of reaching patients and sharing accurate information.1

"I would love to work with health care professionals on how to craft effective messaging about contraception and deliver those messages via social media to reach as many patients as possible," said Bartz in the press release. "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."1

1. Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Study Finds Patients Often Consult Twitter for Birth Control Guidance. News release. March 28, 2024. Accessed March 28, 2024.
2. Merz AA, Gutiérrez-Sacristán A, Bartz D, et al. Population attitudes toward contraceptive methods over time on a social media platform. Obstet Gynecol. 2021;224(6):597.e1-597.e14. doi:10.1016/j.ajog.2020.11.042
3. Huang, M, Gutiérrez-Sacristán, A, Janiak, E, et al. Contraceptive content shared on social media: an analysis of Twitter. Contracept Reprod Med 9,5 (2024). doi:10.1186/s40834-024-00262-2
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