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Preconception knowledge, beliefs and behaviours among people of reproductive age: a systematic review of qualitative studies.

Welshman, Hannah; Dombrowski, Stephan; Grant, Aileen; Swanson, Vivien; Goudreau, Alex; Currie, Sinéad


Hannah Welshman

Stephan Dombrowski

Vivien Swanson

Alex Goudreau

Sinéad Currie


The health of parents before pregnancy influences the short- and long-term health of their offspring. This systematic review explored the preconception knowledge, beliefs and behaviours held by women and men of childbearing age. Databases were searched from 2009 to 2022 (MEDLINE, CINAHL Full-text, PsycINFO, EMBASE). Inclusion criteria specified qualitative research papers which recruited individuals of reproductive age (16–45 years) without existing chronic illnesses. Data were quality assessed and analysed using thematic synthesis. Twelve papers met inclusion criteria. Six themes were identified (cultural context, pregnancy planning, knowledge, gender roles and responsibility, information seeking, prior health behaviours) which relate to individual, social, psychological and cultural factors. Cultural context was related to all other themes. Pregnancy planners had greater motivation to optimise their health whereas those not actively planning were focused more on becoming financially stable. Women and men's knowledge of how and why to engage in health protective behaviours was limited, with health risks and behaviour change discussed in the context of pregnancy rather than preconception. Gender roles influenced individual responsibility for preparation for pregnancy, which in turn influenced information seeking behaviours and engagement in health behaviours. Online sources of support and information were seen as desirable, regardless of pregnancy planning stage. Our findings indicate that behaviour change interventions designed to support people to optimise health before conception should address cultural, individual, social and psychological factors to facilitate behaviour change. Development of online resources may help to increase accessibility for people across different cultural contexts and stages of pregnancy planning.


WELSHMAN, H., DOMBROWSKI, S., GRANT, A., SWANSON, V., GOUDREAU, A. and CURRIE, S. 2023. Preconception knowledge, beliefs and behaviours among people of reproductive age: a systematic review of qualitative studies. Preventive medicine [online], 175, article number 107707. Available from:

Journal Article Type Review
Acceptance Date Sep 15, 2023
Online Publication Date Sep 18, 2023
Publication Date Oct 31, 2023
Deposit Date Sep 23, 2023
Publicly Available Date Sep 22, 2023
Journal Preventive Medicine
Print ISSN 0091-7435
Electronic ISSN 1096-0260
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 175
Article Number 107707
Keywords Preconception; Health behaviours; Knowledge; Beliefs; Systematic review; Qualitative; Pregnancy planning
Public URL
Additional Information This article has been published with separate supporting information. This supporting information has been incorporated into a single file on this repository and can be found at the end of the file associated with this output.


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