While you can’t trust everything you read or see on social media, some information is reliable.

Researchers from Duke University studied popular videos on the social media site TikTok. The videos offered information on ways to obtain a medication abortion.

These were typically informative and useful, the study authors said.

“When we started the study, we expected to find more videos with misinformation,” said Dr. Jenny Wu, a resident in obstetrics and gynecology at Duke in Durham, N.C. “After looking at the data, we were surprised by how accurate the videos were. A significant number of videos were created by health care professionals and organizations providing abortion. TikTok says it has internal policies for blocking inaccurate information which might also have helped on this topic.”

For the study, the Duke team evaluated the 100 most-viewed TikTok videos tagged #abortionpill, #medicalabortion and #medicationabortion. Those videos often describe the pills, what a medication abortion is and how to get that medication.

About 89% of the videos that depicted public health information were mostly accurate, the study found. About 11% were mixed.

Of 51 videos that presented scientific claims, about 86% were mostly accurate. About 14% were mixed.

Social media platforms can help educate patients and combat the stigma surrounding abortion, according to the researchers.

“It’s important that people in more restrictive states have the opportunity to learn about medication abortions even if they don’t have in-person access,” said co-author Dr. Melissa Montoya, also a resident in obstetrics and gynecology. “People are experiencing decreased access to reproductive health services. TikTok can be a way to engage patients and share reliable information.”

The study authors noted that the focus on health education and accuracy of information about medication abortion contrasts with some other reproductive health topics.

“Videos on this topic often mirror what a patient would learn from a clinician or abortion educator, in part because of the fact that TikTok removed some hashtags, like #DIYabortion, where individuals were sharing non-FDA-approved regimens,” said assistant professor Dr. Jonas Swartz, a co-author of the study. “This demonstrates one area where health care organizations have been able to shape a narrative and use the platform to disseminate important information.”

The findings were published Jan. 31 in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology.

More information

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has more on medication abortion.

SOURCE: Duke University, news release, Feb. 1, 2023