Chronic schizophrenic women's attitudes toward sex, pregnancy, birth control, and childrearing

Journal Article

Interviews with 23 chronically institutionalized, schizophrenic women living on a chronic care unit and ranging in age from 20-58 years were interviewed to provide initial systematic data about the attitudes of chronic schizophrenic women toward sex, pregnancy, birth control, and childrearing. All of the subjects, patients at the Middle Tennessee Mental Health Institute, had been receiving neuroleptic medications for at least 3 months before they were interviewed. All had some outside grounds privileges allowing them to have unsupervised contact with male patients. Subjects had been continuously hospitalized for a minimum of 3 months. 2 of the women were married. 12 of the 23 women had borne children. The number of children ranged up to 9. At the time of the interview, 2 women were not using contraceptives, 9 were taking oral contraceptives (OCs), 1 had an IUD, and 2 had had tubal ligations. 1 women had had a hysterectomy, and 8 had already gone through menopause. Each patient was interviewed by the ward charge nurse (AH) who had become well acquainted with the patients during many months and even years of care. 13 of the 23 women reported they would like to have an active sex life. After describing the kind of man they would find attractive, 16 of the women reported they would not hesitate to have sex with such a man if the opportunity were available. 15 reported having had intercourse during the previous 3 months. The frequency of intercourse ranged from once during the entire 3 months to once a day during that period. The nursing staff who constantly worked with these women judged that 14 probably had been sexually active during the 3 months before the interview. 6 of the women reported they would currently like to become pregnant. 8 said they would like to become pregnant in the future. 9 reported no desire to become pregnant. 8 said they would currently like to have children or more children; 6 said they would not like to have more children now but would like to do so in the future. The 3 women who had been surgically sterilized all said they wanted to become pregnant and have more children. Despite the majority's accurate description of birth control, when the women were questioned about its advantages, only 10 understood that women could use birth control to avoid pregnancy. Psychopathology, manifested in unusual responses and inaccurate answers, often disrupted the reasoning of these patients and could potentially lead to illogical conclusions and imprudent activities.

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • McEvoy, JP; Hatcher, A; Appelbaum, PS; Abernethy, V

Published Date

  • 1983

Published In

  • Hospital and Community Psychiatry

Volume / Issue

  • 34 / 6

Start / End Page

  • 536 - 539