Pregnancy and protection: Perceptions, attitudes and experiences of Australian female adolescents

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Journal Article
Women and Birth, 2009, 22 (2), pp. 50 - 56
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Background and purpose: Despite decades of research, development and evaluation of educational and promotional strategies to prevent teenage pregnancy, we have only a limited understanding of the strategies that are effective and why. This study sought to explore female teenagers' attitudes, perceptions and experiences of contraceptive use, and describe the influence of this on pregnancy risk. Methods: A qualitative approach was used to explore the contraceptive behaviour in a purposive sample of sexually active Australian females aged 14-19 years. Teenagers were drawn from three sub-groups: antenatal and postnatal services (pregnant-continuing); termination services (pregnant-terminating); and sexual health clinics (never-pregnant). Sixty-eight individual, semi-structured interviews were conducted. Thematic analysis was employed to analyse the data and generate a rich, description of contraceptive behaviour. Results: Whilst participants were familiar with contraception, many used it inconsistently. Commitment to pregnancy prevention was firmly located within participants' attitudes toward teenage pregnancy and parenthood, perceptions of pregnancy risk and perceptions of the costs and benefits of using contraception. Further, motivation to use contraception fluctuated in different contexts, such as romantic relationships. Conclusions: Our research highlights the importance of attitudes toward contraception, pregnancy and parenthood in shaping teenagers' motivation to use contraception. Educational and prevention programs must address the spectrum of attitudes underlying teenagers' contraceptive and reproductive decisions in order to alter pathways to teenage pregnancy and early parenting. © 2009.
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