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Discussions of miscarriage and preterm births on Twitter.

Abstract

Experiences typically considered private, such as, miscarriages and preterm births are being discussed publicly on social media and Internet discussion websites. These data can provide timely illustrations of how individuals discuss miscarriages and preterm births, as well as insights into the wellbeing of women who have experienced a miscarriage. Here we aim to characterise how users discuss the topic of miscarriage and preterm births on Twitter, analyse trends and drivers, and describe the perceived emotional state of women who have experienced a miscarriage.

We obtained 291 443 Twitter postings on miscarriages and preterm births from January 2017 through December 2018. Latent Dirichlet Allocation (LDA) was used to identify major topics of discussion. We applied time series decomposition methods to assess temporal trends and identify major drivers of discussion. Furthermore, four coders labelled the emotional content of 7282 personal miscarriage disclosure tweets into the following non-mutually exclusive categories: grief/sadness/depression, anger, relief, isolation, annoyance, and neutral.

This study suggests that increase in discussions of miscarriage on social media are associated with several factors, including celebrity disclosures. Additionally, there is a misunderstanding of the potential physical, emotional and psychological impacts on individuals who lose a pregnancy due to a miscarriage.

Topics in our data fell into eight groups: celebrity disclosures, Michelle Obama's disclosure, politics, healthcare, preterm births, loss and anxiety, flu vaccine and ectopic pregnancies. Political discussions around miscarriages were largely due to a misunderstanding between abortions and miscarriages. Grief and annoyance were the most commonly expressed emotions within the miscarriage self-disclosures; 50.6% (95% confidence interval [CI] 49.1, 52.2) and 16.2% (95% CI 15.2, 17.3). Postings increased with celebrity disclosures, pharmacists' refusal of prescribed medications and outrage over the high rate of preterm births in the United States. Miscarriage disclosures by celebrities also led to disclosures by women who had similar experiences.

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