Health Services Research & Development

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Callegari LS, Tartaglione EV, Magnusson SL, Nelson KM, Arteburn DE, Szarka J, Zephyrin L, Borrero S. Understanding Women Veterans' Family Planning Counseling Experiences and Preferences to Inform Patient-Centered Care. Women's health issues : official publication of the Jacobs Institute of Women's Health. 2019 May 1; 29(3):283-289.
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Abstract: BACKGROUND: Women veterans' unique experiences in the military and burden of health comorbidities increase their risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes and may influence their counseling needs related to planning or preventing pregnancy. We investigated women veterans' experiences of family planning counseling in the military and Veterans Affairs (VA) health care systems as well as their counseling preferences. METHODS: We conducted 32 qualitative interviews among women veterans ages 18-44 years receiving primary care at the VA Puget Sound or VA Pittsburgh health care systems between March and June 2016 to explore their experiences and preferences related to counseling about pregnancy goals and planning and contraception. Transcripts were analyzed using inductive and deductive content analysis, and key themes were identified. RESULTS: Nearly all participants described negative experiences in family planning counseling encounters in the military and/or VA, including perceptions of gender-based discrimination and pressure to choose certain contraceptive methods, perceived judgment of their reproductive choices, and a lack of continuity with providers. Some women also reported positive experiences in family planning encounters in the VA, including feeling respected, receiving comprehensive information about options, and having their perspectives and concerns elicited. Counseling preferences that emerged included that providers initiate and validate family planning discussions, establish trust and avoid judgment, elicit women's individual preferences, and engage them as equal partners in decision making. CONCLUSIONS: Women veterans reported a spectrum of negative and positive experiences in family planning encounters in the military and VA that, in conjunction with their preferences, provide key insights for patient-centered reproductive health care in VA.