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Effects of Depression on Contraceptive Behavior

Julia Steinberg will use an NICHD K01 grant to investigate the impact of depression throughout the reproductive cycle

Dr. Steinberg notes that 68 percent of pregnancies among women ages 18-24 are unintended, and approximately one quarter of U.S. women in this age group have had a depressive episode in the past year.

Much research at the intersection of psychology and reproductive health has focused on depression as an outcome of reproductive health experiences such as childbirth, unintended pregnancy, infertility, or contraceptive use. In contrast, this project focuses on conceptualizing depression as a precursor to unintended pregnancy among young women because using contraception requires knowledge, motivation, and a sense of agency that depressed individuals may lack. To better understand theories of fertility and to integrate demographic perspectives into her work, Steinberg will undertake career development activities in order to:

  1. investigate the extent to which depression influences contraceptive behaviors such as choice of contraceptive method, contraceptive use patterns, method discontinuation, and inconsistent use
  2. use quantitative and qualitative methods to examine potential mechanisms by which depression influences contraceptive behaviors, and
  3. develop and pilot a prospective cohort study to investigate the extent to which and mechanisms by which intra-individual changes in depression influence changes in contraceptive behaviors relative to other significant explanatory factors.

Her endeavors benefit from an advisory board scholars and consultants who will provide expertise in statistical analysis techniques, clinical aspects of depression, and qualitative methods.