Contraceptive methods and use by women aged 35 and over: A qualitative study of perspectives

BMC Womens Health. 2011 Feb 16:11:5. doi: 10.1186/1472-6874-11-5.


Background: More than 30% of the pregnancies in women aged 35 and over are unintended. This paper compares perceptions about contraceptive methods and use among women with and without an unintended pregnancy after turning age 35.

Methods: Semi-structured, in-depth interviews were conducted with 17 women. They were all 35 to 49 years old, regularly menstruating, sexually active, not sterilized, not desiring a pregnancy in the near future, and at least 3 months postpartum. We purposely sampled for women who had had at least one unintended pregnancy after age 35 (n = 9) and women who did not (n = 8). We assessed partnership, views of pregnancy and motherhood, desired lifestyle, perceived advantages and disadvantages of using and obtaining currently available well-known reversible contraceptives in the U.S. ''We also assessed contraceptive methods used at any time during their reproductive years, including current method use and, if appropriate, circumstances surrounding an unintended pregnancy after age 35.'' Each interview was taped and transcribed verbatim. Data were analyzed using Grounded Theory. Analysis focused on partnership, views of pregnancy, motherhood, desired lifestyle and perceived advantages and disadvantages of various reversible contraceptive methods.

Results: The women without an unintended pregnancy after age 35 were more likely to (1) use contraceptive methods that helped treat a medical condition, (2) consider pregnancy as dangerous, or (3) express concerns about the responsibilities of motherhood. The women who experienced an unintended pregnancy after age 35 were more likely to (1) report unstable partnerships, (2) perceive themselves at lower risk of pregnancy, or (3) report past experiences with unwanted contraceptive side effects. There was a greater likelihood a woman would choose a contraceptive method if it was perceived as easy to use, accessible, affordable and had minimal side effects.

Conclusions: Women's perspective on contraceptive use after age 35 varies. Public health messages and health providers' care can help women in this age group by reviewing their fertility risks, as well as all contraceptive methods and their associated side effects. The impact of such interventions on unintended pregnancy rates in this age group should be tested in other areas of evidence-based medicine.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Contraception / psychology*
  • Contraception / statistics & numerical data
  • Contraceptive Agents
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Middle Aged
  • Parenting / psychology
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / prevention & control
  • Pregnancy, Unplanned / psychology
  • Pregnancy, Unwanted / psychology
  • Risk Reduction Behavior


  • Contraceptive Agents