Beyond intent: exploring the association of contraceptive choice with questions about Pregnancy Attitudes, Timing and How important is pregnancy prevention (PATH) questions

Contraception. 2019 Jan;99(1):22-26. doi: 10.1016/j.contraception.2018.08.014. Epub 2018 Aug 17.


Objectives: To explore women's responses to PATH questions (Pregnancy Attitudes, Timing and How important is pregnancy prevention) about hypothetical pregnancies and associations with contraceptive method selection among individuals who present as new contraceptive clients and desire to prevent pregnancy for at least 1 year.

Study design: The HER Salt Lake Contraceptive Initiative provided no-cost contraception to new contraceptive clients for 1 year at family planning health centers in Salt Lake County. Those who wanted to avoid pregnancy for at least 1 year and completed the enrollment survey are included in the current study. We used Poisson regression to explore the association between survey-adapted PATH questions and contraceptive method selection.

Results: Based on an analytic sample of 3121 individuals, we found pregnancy timing and happiness about hypothetical pregnancies to be associated with method selection. Clients who report plans to wait more than 5 years [prevalence rate (PR) 1.14; 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.05-1.24], those who never wanted to become pregnant (PR 1.16; 95% CI 1.07-1.26) or those who were uncertain (PR=1.19; 95% CI 1.09-1.30) were all more likely to select IUDs and implants than women who reported wanting to become pregnant within 5 years. Greater happiness was associated with lower chance of choosing an IUD or implant (PR 0.98; 95% CI 0.96-0.999). Expressed importance of pregnancy prevention was not significantly associated with any specific contraceptive choice.

Conclusions: Pregnancy intentions and happiness about a hypothetical pregnancy were independently associated with selection of IUDs and implants.

Implications: Pregnancy attitudes, plans and emotions inform clients' contraceptive needs and behaviors. Client-centered contraceptive care may benefit from a more nuanced PATH approach rather than relying on a single time-oriented question about pregnancy intention.

Keywords: Contraceptive method choice; Cost barrier; Emotions about pregnancy; LARC; PATH questions; Pregnancy intentions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude
  • Birth Intervals / psychology*
  • Choice Behavior
  • Contraception / psychology*
  • Contraception Behavior / psychology*
  • Family Planning Services
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intention
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy, Unplanned / psychology*
  • Utah