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Sexuality, Pregnancy, and Childrearing Among Women With Schizophrenia-Spectrum Disorders
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OBJECTIVE: This study compared sexuality, reproduction, and childrearing characteristics of women with schizophrenia-spectrum disorders with those of women without serious mental illness. METHODS: A semistructured interview was given to 46 women meeting Research Diagnostic Criteria for schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder and to 50 control subjects without major mental illness who were matched for age, race, education, employment status, and religion. RESULTS: Compared with the control subjects, the women with schizophrenic disorders had more lifetime sexual partners, were less likely to have a current partner, and were more likely to have been raped and to have engaged in prostitution. Despite being at high risk for HIV infection, as a group they were less likely to have been tested for HIV. They reported wanting sex less often than did control subjects and rated their physical and emotional satisfaction with sex lower. They had fewer planned pregnancies, more unwanted pregnancies, and more abortions and were more often victims of violence during pregnancy. They were more likely to have lost custody of children and to report that they were unable to meet their children's basic needs and less likely to have another caregiver helping them raise their children. Both groups reported high rates of substance abuse during pregnancy. CONCLUSIONS: Health care delivery systems could better meet the needs of women with severe mental illness by providing social skills training, family planning, and more consistent screening for pregnancy, HIV, and battering. In addition, barriers to care for pregnant women with severe mental illness and substance abuse should be reduced, and parenting training should be incorporated into psychosocial rehabilitation programs for mentally ill parents. (Authors)
Psychiatric Services
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A program of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Mental Health Services