To explore the sexual and reproductive health (SRH) care and counseling needs of young women with rheumatic diseases in the context of their rheumatology care.
Semistructured qualitative telephone interviews were conducted with female patients with rheumatic diseases ages 18–45 years (n = 30). Women were recruited from outpatient rheumatology clinics in western Pennsylvania. Interviews were audiorecorded and transcribed verbatim. A codebook was inductively developed based on the interview transcripts, and the finalized coding was used to conduct a thematic analysis.
Four themes emerged from interviews: 1) women want rheumatologists to initiate conversations about SRH and to revisit the conversation over time; 2) women desire clear and complete information regarding fetal, pregnancy, and infertility risks associated with their diseases and disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs); 3) women want to be treated holistically, with SRH addressed in the context of their life circumstances and personal values in addition to their rheumatic diseases; 4) women generally feel that they are intermediaries between their rheumatologists and obstetrician-gynecologists (OB/GYNs), but preferred for providers to communicate directly with one another about their SRH.
Patients strongly desired rheumatologists to play an active role in their SRH, by initiating family planning conversations, providing SRH education in the context of their diseases and DMARDs, and directly coordinating SRH care with OB/GYNs. To meet patients’ SRH needs, further work is needed to clarify the specific role of rheumatologists in providing SRH care and to identify ways to better facilitate communication between rheumatologists and reproductive health care providers.