In a new committee opinion, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that health care providers ask women between ages 18 and 50 about their reproductive life plans at every visit, MedPage Today reports.
The recommendation was written by ACOG's Committee on Health Care for Underserved Women.
The recommendation urges clinicians to talk with patients about the importance of planning their pregnancies and their contraceptive options for avoiding unintended pregnancy. Specifically, the opinion cited the One Key Question Initiative, which recommends that providers ask reproductive-age women whether they want to become pregnant over the next year. Based on the patient's response, clinicians can then discuss either preconception health care or birth control.
According to ACOG, low-income women and minority women are disproportionately affected by unintended pregnancy. The opinion recommends that providers discuss the Affordable Care Act's contraceptive coverage rules or point out community programs where women can receive help accessing contraception at low or no cost. Further, the opinion states that providers should inform patients about how to use contraception correctly, noting that research has found more than 40% of unintended pregnancies result from incorrect birth control use.
According to MedPage Today, many providers will discuss pregnancy planning during routine ob-gyn visits or in instances when a patient wants to talk about her contraceptive options. However, ACOG's Wanda Nicholson, lead author of the opinion, said maintaining an ongoing dialogue with patients about reproductive-life planning gives patients the opportunity to bring up the topic themselves, disclose their preferences and needs, and ask questions.
Nicholson said, "There are a whole host of different opportunities where we engage with women -- they may be coming in for some acute problem, they may be coming in for a flu shot, they may be coming in for a prenatal care visit ... We want to encourage clinicians to take advantage of every patient encounter, to go beyond the traditional times when we discuss this."
She added, "I think this conversation around reproductive life planning is something that should permeate conversations across multiple demographics" (Walker, MedPage Today, 1/27).