Why Do Women Not Use Preconception Care? A Systematic Review On Barriers And Facilitators

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Preconception care (PCC) has the potential to optimize pregnancy outcomes. However, awareness of PCC among the target population is generally limited, and the use of PCC remains low.


The objective of this study was to review the literature on women's perceptions regarding barriers and facilitators for the use of PCC.

Evidence Acquisition

A systematic search was conducted in MEDLINE, Embase, CINAHL, and PsycINFO for published studies until February 2015. Original qualitative and quantitative peer-reviewed studies from Western countries in English, holding women's perceptions regarding barriers and facilitators for the use of PCC. Data extraction and analysis were performed using NVivo version 10 software. A coding frame was derived from the findings and applied by 2 authors. Thematic analysis was used to identify key topics and themes.


Twenty-one good-quality articles were included, of which 10 qualitative and 11 quantitative studies. Seven main themes were identified: preconditions, emotions and beliefs, perceived need, knowledge and experience, social structure, accessibility, and provider characteristics. “Not (fully) planning pregnancy”, “perceived absence of risks”, “lack of awareness”, and “pregnancy experiences” were the most frequently identified barriers and “believing in the benefits” and “availability of PCC” the most frequently identified facilitators for PCC use.

Conclusions and Relevance

Women perceive more barriers than facilitators related to PCC uptake, which explains why the use of PCC remains low. Our results provide a starting point to refocus interventions and strategies, aiming on enlarging the awareness, perceived importance, and accessibility of PCC to improve its uptake.

Target Audience

Obstetricians and gynecologists, family physicians.

Learning Objectives

After completing this activity, the learner should be better able to (1) appraise the recent literature on barriers and facilitators that affect the uptake rates of preconception care; (2) discuss which perceptions women hold regarding the use of preconception care; and (3) take these factors into account while designing preconception care interventions and strategies.

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