05/20/2014 03:16 pm ET Updated Jul 20, 2014

Healthier Women and Families: New Guidelines Provide a Quality Roadmap

We've long known that access to family planning services leads to healthier birth outcomes for women, infants and families. In the era of health reform, we are now pleased to share the release of new guidelines which address the quality of family planning services delivery.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Population Affairs (OPA), together with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently released the first federal evidence-informed recommendations for the delivery of family planning services in the U.S. "Providing Quality Family Planning Services (QFP)" offers guidance for all reproductive health and primary care providers who care for women and men for family planning services, as well as patients coming in seeking other primary care visits.

Each year there are more than 3.4 million unintended pregnancies in the U.S.(1) Research has shown that unintended pregnancies are associated with poorer birth outcomes for mother and infant. For women, negative outcomes associated with unintended pregnancy can include delays in initiating prenatal care; maternal depression; reduced likelihood of breastfeeding, resulting in less healthy children; and increased risk of physical violence during pregnancy (2).

Births resulting from unintended pregnancies are associated with increased risk of poor outcomes, including birth defects and low birth weight (3). Children from unintended pregnancies are more likely to experience poor mental and physical health during childhood, and to have lower educational attainment and more behavioral issues in their teen years (2). The negative consequences of unintended pregnancy are even more dire for teen parents and their children (2).

QFP lays out a roadmap for what services to offer to patients who are seeking to achieve pregnancy or want to prevent or delay pregnancy until later. QFP has special sections on infertility and on preconception care. Preconception care is important in helping couples achieve healthy pregnancies, and also for improving women's and men's health throughout their reproductive years (15-44).

The new recommendations also have a special focus on serving adolescents as well as recommendations on providing family planning and related services to men. Furthermore, QFP encourages use of the family planning visit for the provision of other essential preventive health services, such as breast and cervical cancer screening for women.

QFP answers "What services should be offered to a client who is in need of family planning, and how should those services be provided?" by drawing on existing clinical recommendations of the CDC, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), and professional medical organizations, and by filling in gaps. QFP represents a rigorous, systematic, transparent review of the evidence with input from a broad range of clinical experts.

Released as a Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) in late April, QFP's official launch webinar for health care professionals, providers and others interested was on Thursday, May 8, 2014.

1. Guttmacher Institute, "Unintended Pregnancy in the United States," December 2013,, accessed 4/27/14.

2., "Family Planning,", accessed 4/27/14.

3.Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Preconception and interconception health status of women who recently gave birth to a live-born infant--pregnancy risk assessment monitoring system (PRAMS), United States, 26 Reporting Areas, 2004. MMWR Weekly. 2007 Dec 14;56(SS-10):1-40. Available from: [PDF - 609 KB]