Our Research

Research at the Section

Research is the cornerstone of the Section’s work, linking our policy, clinical and educational missions.

Our research focuses on the reproductive health of populations disproportionately affected by unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections: Latinas, African Americans, poor women, adolescents, and postpartum women. Using diverse methodologies, we examine reproductive well-being from multiple perspectives (e.g., biological, psychosocial, and ecological) to gain a comprehensive understanding of the context in which it occurs.

A Qualitative Approach

Our work often begins with qualitative research, where we gain rich insight into the reproductive experiences of women and adolescents through their own words.

In an early study, we conducted focus groups with young teen mothers to elucidate the significance of several factors in their lives as parents. These data informed the longitudinal phase of the study, where our staff interviewed 40 postpartum African American teen mothers to learn about their contraceptive behaviors, relationships, and psychological well-being during their transition to parenthood. This study provides a complex portrait of teen motherhood and enlightens future research focused on preventing rapid repeat pregnancies among adolescents.

Our qualitative research is also guided by issues affecting current reproductive health policy. In-depth interviews with minors about whether or not they informed their parents of their abortion shed light on the potential effects of a parental notification law in Illinois, providing crucial information for policy-makers and clinicians.

Implications for Clinical Care

Much of our social science research generates insights that are applicable to the clinical setting, where patient-provider interactions and clinical service delivery are important determinants of contraceptive success.

Our qualitative research has identified a number of social and cultural barriers that undermine the use of highly effective methods of contraception among populations that are at higher risk of unintended pregnancy, including adolescents and African American women on the South Side of Chicago. We have also conducted a series of studies demonstrating that many women who request postpartum sterilization do not receive the procedure, resulting in rapid repeat pregnancies, personal hardship, health complications and abortions.

Our recent studies include implementing a systematic evaluation of clinical care to improve IUD delivery and another that evaluated the impact of doula support on first-trimester abortion care.

Clinical Trial Expertise

Our clinical trials program conducts research aimed at increasing the contraceptive methods available to all women. In the past our physician-researchers have studied contraceptive uptake and adherence in women, including satisfaction of IUDs among adolescents and acceptability of the NuvaRing® compared to the oral contraceptive pill Ortho Tri-Cyclen® Lo among college women.

Partnering with innovative sponsors engaged in bringing new contraceptive methods to market affords us the opportunity to be involved in the development of cutting-edge contraceptives, including the testing of an estrogen-free birth control pill.

A Committed Partner

The Section’s research is strengthened by funding from private foundations, federal agencies, and individual donors. We provide ongoing mentorship in research design, study implementation, and analysis to students, fellows, and volunteers who regularly assist us in our work. We are committed to sharing our findings with the community, academics, policy makers, and the public.