Objectives: Reproductive Life Plan (RLP)-based information in counseling has been reported in the USA and Sweden to increase women's knowledge of fertility and informed decision making about future fertility plans. This study examined if utilizing the RLP tool would have the same impact on Iranian women.
Design: A randomized, three-armed, controlled trial. 181 women were randomly allocated to the intervention group (IG, n = 61), control group 1 (CG1, n = 60) or control group 2 (CG2, n = 60).
Setting: A primary health care center in the Sari city, the Provincial capital of Mazandaran, Iran.
Participants: Women of reproductive age who were able to conceive.
Interventions: The intervention group received oral and written information about fertility based on the RLP tool. Participants were contacted 2 months after the intervention. The primary outcome measure was the change in women's knowledge of fertility, particularly folic acid intake prior to pregnancy, over a 2 month period. The change in women's family planning intentions were also assessed. The participants in the IG shared their experiences at follow-up.
Findings: At baseline, there was no difference between the groups regarding the mean knowledge of fertility score. At 2 months, after adjustment for age, history of pregnancy and baseline values, the between group difference in change from baseline was 5.8 (p < 0.001). While there was no significant difference between the IG and CG1 for folic acid intake prior to pregnancy at baseline, the group difference for folic acid intake prior to pregnancy post intervention was statistically significant (85% vs 25%, p < 0.001). At follow-up, women's desire to have more children, preferred age to conceive the last child and the desired age gap between children in the IG and CG1 did not significantly change over time. Women reported the RLP counseling tool used by midwives as useful.
Key conclusions: Provision of RLP-based information for Iranian women with a clear pregnancy intention in the context of a stable relationship, increased knowledge of fertility without changing their future fertility plan. The RPL counseling tool was appreciated by study participants. The lack of improvement in women's fertility intentions over time may reflect the involvement of other factors influencing decision making about childbearing in Iran. Whether the RLP can change women's behavior is yet to be established.
Implications for practice: The RLP can be used by health care professionals, especially midwives, as a tool to increase women's fertility knowledge, which may result in fertility behavior change.
Keywords: Family planning; Fertility; Health education; Knowledge; Preconception care; Reproductive health.
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