The perceptions and awareness of Australian pregnant and breastfeeding women of the risks/safety of complementary medicine products

Samar Al-Share'

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Abstract

Pregnancy and breastfeeding are important stages during women’s reproductive life with complementary medicines being a common option for the management of their health issues. Pregnant and breastfeeding women have positive beliefs about complementary medicines due to their perceived naturalness and therefore believe that they are safe to use. Despite their popularity, there is limited strong scientific evidence on their safety and efficacy supporting their use in general and in pregnancy and lactation in particular. However, medication-related knowledge of women during pregnancy was shown in some studies to be low in relation to prescription medicines and complementary medicines. While it is hard to measure the knowledge of women about complementary medicines due to the huge number of these products in market, it is more practical and beneficial to explore the awareness of women of the risks/safety of these medicines during pregnancy and lactation. This field has not been investigated in the literature and the underlying factors that build the awareness of the risks/safety of complementary medicines are yet to be studied.
The first aim of this research was to explore Australian pregnant and breastfeeding women’s perceived awareness of the risks/safety of complementary medicines. To find out the perceived awareness of these women, a cross-sectional study design was used. Two national online surveys were developed and undertaken (one for pregnant women and the other one for breastfeeding women).
The results indicated that almost two-thirds of the pregnant survey participants considered themselves to be well informed about complementary medicines and can use them safely during pregnancy. Our findings of breastfeeding survey have indicated that over half of the participants considered themselves to be well informed about complementary medicines and perceive they can use them safely while breastfeeding. The main two study variables that would influence how women perceive themselves to be using complementary medicine products safely or are informed about them were the history of complementary medicine use in the past 12 months and being asked by their health care practitioners about their use during pregnancy. For breastfeeding women, the main two study variables were the history of complementary medicine use in the past 12 months and being born overseas.
Exploratory factor analysis was used to identify underlying variables that contribute to the pregnant and breastfeeding women’s awareness of the safety of complementary medicines. The perceptions and knowledge about safety, efficacy, quality, brand differences and regulations of complementary medicines in addition to the skills of seeking knowledge were the main themes of these scales.
The second aim of this research was to explore the role of Australian community pharmacists as health care professionals in influencing this group of women toward the safe use of complementary medicines. This role was explored through studying two factors: pharmacist-women communication and the pharmacists’ knowledge and perceptions of safety and efficacy of complementary medicines taken during pregnancy and breastfeeding. An online cross-sectional survey was developed and hosted on SurveyMonkey® platform to approach as many participants across different geographical locations within the states and territories of Australia.
According to the results of the survey, the two factors that most affect pharmacists’ communication with pregnant and breastfeeding women are the pharmacists’ own knowledge and their confidence in this knowledge of the use of complementary medicine products. When consulted about complementary medicines, the majority of the pharmacists focused on gathering information (over 80%) and providing female consumers with available evidence (over 70%) that establishes the safety of use of those complementary medicine products during pregnancy and lactation. Their knowledge regarding the use of complementary medicine products during pregnancy varied between the participants, with the majority correctly identifying complementary medicine products that are either safe or are contraindicated during pregnancy. The results identified that pharmacists have negative perceptions about the safety of these products during pregnancy and lactation. They are also unsatisfied with their knowledge about the safety of use of complementary medicine products during these stages of women’s lives.
In conclusion, the respondent women perceived themselves to be aware about the safety of complementary medicine products use during pregnancy and lactation which could be reassuring when considered with their pattern of complementary medicine use. More attention needs to be given to breastfeeding women as they showed lower level of confidence in the use of complementary medicine products safely than pregnant women. The role of community pharmacists in influencing this group of women toward the safe use of complementary medicine products needs to be enhanced.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Charles Sturt University
Supervisors/Advisors
  • Simpson, Maree, Principal Supervisor
  • Parkinson, Chris, Co-Supervisor
  • Robinson, Heather, Co-Supervisor
Place of PublicationAustralia
Publisher
Publication statusPublished - 2022

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