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Documenting contraceptive contexts and norms among adult sexual minority women: a critical step in improving care and reducing unintended pregnancy risk

Jenny Higgins, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Project abstract

New research suggests that sexual minority women (SMW) have an increased risk of unintended pregnancy compared to their heterosexual peers. While scholars have documented some of the pathways leading to teen pregnancy disparities for adolescent SMW, few studies have examined adult SMW’s elevated risk of unintended pregnancy, despite distinct differences between adolescent and adult developmental and life-course profiles. The majority of adult SMW engage in penile-vaginal intercourse (heterosex) at least occasionally, but little research has investigated SMW’s perceptions and experiences with contraception during these interactions. Documenting the contexts in which SMW engage in heterosex is the critical next step in the effort to improve SMW’s contraceptive care.

Our project addresses this need by collecting much-needed qualitative data from three groups: bisexual-, lesbian-, and queer-identified women. In Aim 1, we will use six qualitative focus groups in three cities to document social norms of heterosex among SMW, SMW’s attitudes toward contraception, and provider interactions regards to sexual health. In Aim 2, we will use Aim 1’s focus groups as well as 10 in-depth interviews to asses SMW’s actual experiences with contraception within the heterosexual encounters in the last year. Finally, in Aim 3, we will use findings to: a) develop preliminary clinical and educational messages to improve contraceptive services for SMW, and b) lay the groundwork for a larger-scale research program to enhance SMW’s contraceptive care-seeking.

Led by an interdisciplinary, mixed-methods research team, the current proposal will ultimately better meet SMW’s pregnancy-prevention needs, including future contraceptive care and counseling guidelines.


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