Researchers say new media technologies including smart phone apps and online services are an effective way to improve the health of new mothers and their babies.

A University of Adelaide health communication study at a South Australian hospital found that midwives are already raising the level of health literacy by providing informal verbal advice and printed material.

But, the study found, a standardised approach is needed to make the role more effective.

The research also suggests that midwives could provide better information and support through the use of new media technologies.

“Midwives are very aware of the importance of delivering tailored health information that best meets the needs of pregnant women, however, their ability to do so is constrained by a number of factors including informal counselling and a reliance on printed brochures,” said the study’s author Dr Dianne Rodger, Senior Research Fellow at the University of Adelaide.

“The comprehensive smart phone app we've developed could help midwives and other antenatal staff, who often lack resources and training specific to this task, to provide the best possible advice,” Dr Rodger says.

In the study, published in the international journal Midwifery, the researchers say that innovative strategies are needed.

“Most pregnant women and new mothers are already turning to the internet for information. It is important for health professionals to be providing reliable information in that space for these women to access,” Dr Rodger says.

This study is part of a broader research project called 'Health-e Baby', looking at the use of alternative communication strategies and technologies to promote health to the community.