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Reducing number of unintended pregnancies through planning focus of grant

A Penn State College of Medicine researcher has received a three-year, $1.7 million grant to help determine if the number of unintended pregnancies can be reduced through reproductive life planning.

The Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute awarded the grant — the first Penn State has received from PCORI — to Cynthia Chuang, who will conduct a study looking at the effectiveness of a web-based intervention aimed at helping women plan for whether, when and how they will be pregnant in the future.

“Most U.S. families want two children, therefore the average U.S. woman spends up to three decades of her reproductive life trying to avoid pregnancy,” said Chuang, associate professor of medicine and public health sciences. “In spite of her efforts, some women end up having at least one unintended pregnancy, pregnancies that are at increased risk for adverse maternal and child health outcomes.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended an exercise called “My Reproductive Life Plan.” The exercise includes questions mainly about life goals and whether children are desired and how children would fit into that life or not.

“The web-based tool then helps a woman think about what birth control method(s) may be best suited for her, based upon when she wants to get pregnant in the future, what side effects she wants to avoid, how effective the method needs to be, whether she is concerned about STDs, [and so forth],” said Chuang.

Although recommended by the CDC, the “reproductive life planning” tool has never been studied to determine its effectiveness. With the PCORI grant, Chuang will be systematically evaluating the impact of the exercise.

“As the pool of Americans who have public and private health insurance grows, our intervention — if found to be effective — can be used widely to help women with reproductive and contraceptive planning,” said Chuang.

PCORI was founded by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in 2010 to fund patient-centered research that will provide evidence-based information needed to make better-informed health care decisions.

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