The purpose of this situation analysis was to explore the views of health and non-health professionals working with women of childbearing age on current and future delivery of preconception care in one National Health Service (NHS) Board area in Scotland.
The situation analysis was undertaken using a mixed methods approach. Six focus groups were conducted organised by profession – general practitioners (GPs), practice nurses, health visitors, family nurses, guidance teachers and youth workers. Existing evidence of effective preconception care interventions informed focus group guides. A survey was undertaken with community pharmacists which provided qualitative data for analysis. Focus group transcripts were analysed by two researchers using a thematic analysis approach.
There was lack of awareness of preconception health and its importance amongst the target group. Levels of unplanned pregnancy hampered efforts to deliver interventions. Professional knowledge, capacity and consistency of practice were viewed as challenges, as was individual compliance with preconception care advice. Improvement requires multifaceted action, including ensuring the school curriculum adequately prepares adolescents for future parenthood, increasing awareness through communication and marketing, supporting professional knowledge and practice and capitalising on existing opportunities for preconception care, and ensuring services are equitable and targeted to need.
Delivery of preconception care needs to be improved both before and between pregnancies to improve outcomes for women and infants. Action is required at individual, organisational and community levels to ensure this important issue is at the forefront of preventative care and preventative spending.