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More Than a Destination: Contraceptive Decision Making as a Journey.

  • Author(s): Downey, Margaret Mary
  • Arteaga, Stephanie
  • Villaseñor, Elodia
  • Gomez, Anu Manchikanti
  • et al.
Abstract

BACKGROUND:Contraceptive use is widely recognized as a means of reducing adverse health-related outcomes. However, dominant paradigms of contraceptive counseling may rely on a narrow definition of "evidence" (i.e., scientifically accurate but exclusive of individual women's experiences). Given increased enthusiasm for long-acting, reversible contraceptive methods, such paradigms may reinforce counseling that overprivileges effectiveness, particularly for groups considered at high risk of unintended pregnancy. This study investigates where and how women's experiences fit into the definition of evidence these counseling protocols use. METHODS:Using a qualitative approach, this analysis draws on semistructured interviews with 38 young (ages 18-24) Black and Latina women. We use a qualitative content analysis approach, with coding categories derived directly from the textual data. FINDINGS:Our analysis suggests that contraceptive decision making is an iterative, relational, reflective journey. Throughout contraceptive histories, participants described experiences evolving to create a foundation from which decision-making power was drawn. The same contraceptive-related decisions were revisited repeatedly, with knowledge accrued along the way. The cumulative experience of using, assigning meanings to, and developing values around contraception meant that young women experienced contraceptive decision making as a dynamic process. IMPLICATIONS FOR PRACTICE:This journey creates a rich body of evidence that informs contraceptive decision making. To provide appropriate, acceptable, patient-centered family planning care, providers must engage with evidence grounded in women's expertise on their contraceptive use in addition to medically accurate data on method effectiveness, side effects, and contraindications.

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