Perspectives on pregnancy in women with chronic kidney disease: Systematic review of qualitative studies

Allison Tong, Shilpa Jesudason, Jonathan Craig, Wolfgang Winkelmayer

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

54 Citations (Scopus)


BackgroundAchieving parenthood in women with chronic kidney disease (CKD) is challenging due to reduced fertility and the risk of adverse outcomes. We aimed to describe women's perspectives of pregnancy in CKD. MethodsElectronic databases were searched to April 2014. Studies were synthesized thematically. ResultsFrom 15 studies (n = 257) we identified seven themes. 'Pursuing motherhood' was fulfilling an innate or social desire to have a child. 'Failure to fulfill social norms' of being unable to conceive diminished their self-worth. 'Fear of birth defects' was attributed to the potential side effects of immunosuppression. 'Decisional insecurity and conflict' encompassed uncertainties of prioritizing pregnancy as sacrifices had to be made in family life and work to minimize their risk of complications. Transplant recipients were concerned about the increased likelihood of graft loss. The possibility of genetic transmission of kidney disease influenced decisions about childbearing. 'Withholding emotional investment' was a way of protecting against the devastation of inability to conceive, miscarriage or stillbirth. 'Control and determination' reflected their capacity to choose to accept the risks of pregnancy. Some felt traumatized when their physician unduly warned against pregnancy. 'Exacerbating disease' due to pregnancy was also of concern to women. ConclusionsFor women with CKD, pregnancy decisions can be emotionally complicated by health risks, family burden and the perceived risk of fetal malformation. Proactive counseling, shared decision-making about family planning and managing pregnancy in CKD that addresses patient preferences, and multidisciplinary care involving nephrologists, reproductive and obstetrics specialists, and psychological support may improve management of pregnancy issues in CKD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)652-661
Number of pages10
JournalNephrology Dialysis Transplantation
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2015


  • fertility
  • pregnancy
  • qualitative research
  • quality of life
  • shared decision-making


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