Examining the Role of the Pediatric Emergency Department in Reducing Unintended Adolescent Pregnancy

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Abstract

Objectives

To determine pregnancy risk and receptiveness to emergency department (ED)-based pregnancy prevention interventions among adolescents accessing care in the ED.

Study design

Cross-sectional electronic survey of adolescent females in a pediatric ED used to calculate the Pregnancy Risk Index, a validated measure estimating the annual risk of becoming pregnant based on recent sexual activity, contraceptive method(s), method-specific contraceptive failure rates, and interest in receipt of ED-based contraceptive services.

Results

Of 229 participants, 219 were not pregnant, and 129 reported sexual experience. Overall, 72.4% (n = 166) endorsed negative pregnancy intentions. The overall Pregnancy Risk Index for the 219 nonpregnant participants was 9.6 (95% CI 6.8–12.4), and was 17.5 (95% CI 12.8–22.2) for the 129 sexually experienced participants. A Pregnancy Risk Index greater than the national average of 5 was associated with older age (aOR 3.0; 95% CI 1.5–5.85), nonprivate insurance (aOR 7.1; 95% CI 1.6–32.1), prior pregnancy (aOR 2.7; 95% CI 1.2–6.0), and chief complaint potentially related to a reproductive health concern (aOR 2.6; 95% CI 1.4–5.1). In this cohort, 85.1% (n = 194) believed that the ED should provide information about pregnancy prevention, the majority of whom (64.9%; n = 148) believed that pregnancy prevention services should be offered at all ED visits.

Conclusion

This study demonstrates a high unintended pregnancy risk among adolescents accessing care in the ED. Adolescents report interest in receiving pregnancy prevention information and services in the ED, regardless of reason for visit. Strategies to incorporate successfully the provision of reproductive health services into ED care should be explored.

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