Lessons Learned Recruiting and Retaining Pregnant and Postpartum Individuals in Digital Trials

Published in: JMIR Pediatrics and Parenting (2022). doi: 10.2196/35320

Posted on RAND.org on March 08, 2022

by Amanda Parks, Jennifer Duffecy, Jennifer E. McCabe, Rachel Blankstein Breman, Jeannette Milgrom, Yafit Hirshler, Alan W. Gemmill, Jennifer Felder, Lori Uscher-Pines

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In an increasingly connected world and in the midst of a global pandemic, digital trials offer numerous advantages over traditional trials that rely on physical study sites. Digital trials have the potential to improve access to research and clinical treatments for the most vulnerable and minoritized, including pregnant and postpartum individuals. However, digital trials are underutilized in maternal and child health research, and there is limited evidence to inform the design and conduct of digital trials. Our research collaborative, consisting of five research teams in the U.S. and Australia, aimed to address this gap. We collaborated to share lessons learned from our experiences recruiting and retaining pregnant and postpartum individuals in digital trials of social and behavioral interventions. We first discuss the promise of digital trials in improving participation in research during the perinatal period as well as the unique challenges they pose. Second, we present lessons learned from 12 completed and ongoing digital trials that have used platforms such as Ovia, Facebook, and Instagram to recruitment. Our trials have evaluated interventions for breastfeeding, prenatal and postpartum depression, insomnia, decision-making, and chronic pain. We focus on challenges and lessons learned in three key areas 1) rapid recruitment of large samples with a diversity of minoritized identities; 2) retention of study participants in longitudinal studies; and 3) preventing fraudulent enrollment. We offer concrete strategies that we have pilot tested to address these challenges. Strategies presented in this commentary can be incorporated into as well as formally evaluated in future studies.

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