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Reproductive planning, pregnancy intention, ambivalence, and health care experiences: a qualitative study

Lindsay Stevens, Rutgers University

Project abstract

A major health care goal in the United States is to increase the proportion of pregnancies that are planned. Research shows that women frequently report ambivalence about pregnancy, complicating expectations about planning pregnancy. However, we may not have a full picture of pregnancy intention, broadly construed, because of the narrowness of populations studied: usually poor, young, and/or minority women.

I expand on previous research by 1) examining a broader population than typically studied and 2) focusing on individuals' experiences with and assessments of reproductive health care. I will conduct in-depth, qualitative interviews with 50 reproductive-age (18-44) women in the Northeastern United States in order to understand whether (and how) ambivalence about pregnancy and childbearing plays a role in how they approach contraceptive use and reproductive health care.

Specifically, this research seeks to explore: How do women describe fertility management? Do their narratives match, modify, or even disrupt the medical emphasis on “planning” pregnancy? How do women report talking to their health care providers about pregnancy intentions? Do they feel supported and understood if they do? Are they hesitant to broach certain topics, like ambivalence or uncertainty? Do some avoid reproductive health care altogether?

The study will contribute to our understanding of women's lived experiences of reproductive planning and how those experiences are (or are not) validated, understood, and addressed in contemporary reproductive health care.


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