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Future Pregnancy Considerations after Premature Birth of an Infant Requiring Intensive Care: A Qualitative Study



Postpartum contraception counseling and method use vary widely among patients who had a preterm birth. We performed this study to explore what issues and concerns individuals with preterm infants requiring intensive care describe as influencing their postpartum contraceptive choices.


We conducted a qualitative study using semi-structured interviews with participants who gave birth to a singleton preterm infant admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). We explored pregnancy, childbirth, postpartum care, and NICU experiences, as well as future reproductive plans and postpartum contraceptive choices. Two coders used a constant-comparative approach to code transcripts and identify themes.


We interviewed 26 participants: 4 (15%) gave birth at less than 26, 6 (23%) at 26 to 27 6/7, 8 (31%) at 28 to 31 6/7, and 8 (31%) at 32 to 36 6/7 weeks of gestation. We identified three main themes related to future pregnancy plans and contraception choice. First, participants frequently described their preterm birth and their infants' NICU hospitalization as traumatic experiences that affected plans for future pregnancies. The loss of control in predicting or preventing a future preterm birth and uncertainty about their premature child's future medical needs resulted in participants wanting to avoid going through the same experience with another child. Second, participants chose contraception based on previous personal experiences, desired method features, and advice from others. Last, having a preterm birth did not result in any ambivalence among those who desired permanent contraception.


Preterm birth influences future pregnancy plans. When discussing reproductive goals with patients, clinicians should be aware of potential trauma associated with a premature birth, assess for whether patients want to discuss contraception, and center the conversation around individual needs if patients do desire contraceptive counseling.

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