A systematic review of literature to compare the fertility desires among HIV positive women and cancer survivors
Background. Decision-making on reproductive issues is influenced by an interplay of individual, familial, medical, religious and socio-cultural factors. Women with chronic medical illnesses such an HIV infection and cancers are often fraught with decisional conflicts about child-bearing. With increase in the incidence of these illnesses as well as improvement in survival rates, there is a need to pay due attention to the issue of reproductive decision-making. Examining the prevalence and determinants of fertility desires in the two groups in a comparative manner would help bring to light perception of the medical community and the society in general on the two illnesses and the issue of motherhood.
Methods. Systematic literature search was undertaken using databases such as MEDLINE (PubMED), MEDLINE (Ovid), PsycInfo and Web of Science. Articles published in English and English language abstracts for foreign articles were included. Studies that explore ‘fertility desires’ as the outcome variable were included. Quantitative studies which have assessed the prevalence of fertility desires as well as qualitative studies which have provided a descriptive understanding of factors governing reproductive desires were included in the review.
Results. A total of 34 articles (29 studies examining HIV and 5 studies examining cancer in relation to fertility desires). Variables such as age, stage of illness, support of spouse and family, perception of the medical community and one’s own view of motherhood were key determinants among both groups.
Conclusion. There is a need for uniform, systematic research in this field. It is important that health care workers acknowledge these decisional conflicts, include them as part of the medical care of these patients and provide guidance with the right balance of information, practicality and compassion.