Reproductive decision making in women with medical comorbidities: a qualitative study

Elena M. Kraus, Niraj R. Chavan, Victoria Whelan, Jennifer Goldkamp, James M. DuBois

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: A growing number of reproductive-age women in the U.S. have chronic medical conditions, increasing their risk of perinatal morbidity and mortality. Still, they experience unintended pregnancies at similar rates to low-risk mothers. We have limited understanding of how these individuals consider decisions about pregnancy and contraceptive use. The purpose of this study was to understand factors that influence reproductive decision-making among pregnant women with chronic medical conditions. Methods: We conducted 28 semi-structured interviews with pregnant women with pre-existing medical conditions admitted to a tertiary maternal hospital to examine factors influencing reproductive decision making. Maternal demographic characteristics, medical history, and pregnancy outcome data were obtained through participant surveys and abstraction from electronic health records. Interview transcripts were coded and analyzed using Dedoose® with both deductive and inductive content analysis. Results: Out of 33 eligible participants, 30 consented to participate and 28 completed interviews. The majority of participants identified as black, Christian, made less than $23,000 yearly, and had a variety of preexisting medical conditions. Overarching themes included: 1) Perceived risks-benefits of pregnancy, 2) Perceived risks-benefits of birth control, 3) Determinants of contraceptive utilization, and 4) Perceived reproductive self-agency. Contraception was viewed as acceptable, but with concerning physical and psychological side effects. Although some considered pregnancy as a health threat, more experienced pregnancy as positive and empowering. Few planned their pregnancies. Conclusions: Preexisting health conditions did not significantly influence reproductive decision-making. Barriers to birth control use were generally based in patient value-systems instead of external factors. Interventions to improve uptake and use of birth control in this cohort should focus on improving care for chronic health conditions and influencing patient knowledge and attitudes toward contraception.

Original languageEnglish
Article number848
JournalBMC Pregnancy and Childbirth
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2023


  • Contraceptive access
  • Determinants of contraceptive use
  • High-risk pregnancy
  • Patient centered contraceptive counseling
  • Pregnancy planning
  • Qualitative research
  • Unintended pregnancy


Dive into the research topics of 'Reproductive decision making in women with medical comorbidities: a qualitative study'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this