"Everything I Needed from Her Was Everything She Gave Back to Me:" An Evaluation of Preconception Counseling for U.S. HIV-serodiscordant Couples Desiring Pregnancy

Womens Health Issues. 2016 May-Jun;26(3):351-6. doi: 10.1016/j.whi.2015.11.004. Epub 2016 Jan 6.


Objectives: We sought to evaluate preconception counseling (PCC) through a qualitative examination of the experiences of couples with serodiscordant human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) status desiring pregnancy.

Methods: Patients involved in HIV-serodiscordant relationships who received PCC between January 2013 and January 2015 were recruited to participate in 40-minute semistructured telephone interviews. Participants were asked about their experiences with PCC and the impact of counseling on their knowledge of safer conception strategies and reproductive decisions. Two researchers independently coded interview transcripts, and delineated common ideas to generate emerging themes from participants' responses.

Results: Eleven respondents completed the interviews, including nine women and two men. Six respondents were HIV positive. Our thematic analysis revealed that patients gained knowledge and confidence through PCC that conception was both possible and safe. They had varied reactions to assisted reproductive technologies that correlated with income level, and explored complicated weighing of personal risk of HIV transmission. Patients reported major challenges including poor access to PCC, difficulty identifying peak fertility periods, and lack of long-term conception follow-up.

Discussion: PCC is a valuable resource for patients involved in HIV-serodiscordant relationships. We recommend the following opportunities for improvement: developing practical safer conception clinical and counseling guidelines for HIV-affected couples, increasing patient access to and awareness of PCC services, distributing more helpful resources to identify peak fertility, and providing long-term support for patients.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Counseling / methods*
  • Family Characteristics*
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / prevention & control
  • HIV Infections / psychology
  • HIV Infections / transmission
  • HIV Seropositivity
  • Health Personnel
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Motivation
  • Preconception Care / methods*
  • Preconception Care / statistics & numerical data
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications, Infectious / prevention & control*
  • Pregnancy Complications, Infectious / psychology*
  • Qualitative Research
  • Reproductive Health Services
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • United States