Rethinking Preconception Care: A Critical, Women’s Health Perspective

Erika L. Thompson, Coralia Vázquez-Otero, Cheryl A. Vamos, Stephanie L. Marhefka, Nolan S. Kline, Ellen M. Daley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Objectives Preconception care aims to provide care to reproductive aged individuals in order to improve pregnancy and birth outcomes. Given that preconception care is a public health priority, it is important to evaluate the evolution of this health paradigm and the promotion of preconception messages that are obtained by the public. We identified online preconception health messages, which were critically assessed through a women’s health perspective. Methods We searched for “preconception care” on three major search engines. Websites were included if they were U.S.-based, provided content in English, and mentioned preconception care. Blogs and journal articles were excluded. The final sample included 52 websites. Using a content analysis approach, we assessed the presence of gender bias and identified other emergent themes. Results The majority of websites focused on preconception care for women only (67%). The recommendations centered on: (1) health behaviors for women (e.g., folic acid, drinking, smoking); (2) visiting healthcare providers; and (3) evaluating medical risks. Moreover, most content implied that women desired, or should desire, pregnancy. Overall, the messages used biomedical language and rarely mentioned other important health topics, such as social support and violence. Conclusions The primary messages presented on preconception care websites emphasized biomedical aspects of women’s health. The current context of preconception care medicalizes this pre-pregnancy period by defining it as a biomedical condition requiring lifestyle changes and interventions. Additionally, the biases presented in these messages assumed women want and are capable of pregnancies and excluded an integral factor for heteronormative reproduction—men.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1147-1155
Number of pages9
JournalMaternal and Child Health Journal
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1 May 2017


  • Gender
  • Medicalization
  • Preconception health
  • Reproductive health


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