Defining preconception: Exploring the concept of a preconception population

Briony Hill*, Jennifer Hall, Helen Skouteris, Sinéad Currie

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Health prior to conception can significantly impact offspring health, however, a clear definition of the attributes of the preconception population is currently lacking. We aimed to use existing literature to explore the concept and attributes of a preconception population by: [1] identifying characteristics and research recruitment methods; and [2] generating an attribute-based working definition of a preconception population. Methods: A rapid review of current literature using CINAHL and the subject heading 'pre-pregnancy care' was conducted (Stage 1). Data extracted included definitions of preconception, participant inclusion/exclusion criteria, participant characteristics, and recruitment methods. Stage 2 involved a wider search of relevant publications beyond peer-reviewed literature followed by a concept analysis of the phrase "preconception population" applying Walker and Avant's framework (Stage 2). Results: Twenty-three papers (19 studies) were included in Stage 1. "Preconception" was explicitly defined in one study. Twelve studies specified participants must be planning a pregnancy. Stage 2 included 33 publications. Four key perspectives for the concept of the preconception population were derived: [1] intentional; [2] potential; [3] public health; and [4] life course. Conclusions: Adopting these perspectives may allow researchers to accurately define, identify and recruit preconception populations and to develop interventions that are appropriately broad or tailored depending on population needs. We hope the definitions will facilitate research with this population and will subsequently improve the wellbeing of preconception men and women, which is essential to ensuring the health of future generations.

Original languageEnglish
Article number280
JournalBMC Pregnancy and Childbirth
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 7 May 2020
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 The Author(s).


  • Preconception
  • Pregnancy intention
  • Pregnancy planning
  • Public health


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