Campus News

PhD student receives funding to study family planning during COVID-19 pandemic

Carolyn Barnes July 10, 2020
Christine Naya

How does a pandemic impact family planning? Christine Naya, PhD candidate in the Health Behavior Research program at Keck School of Medicine of USC, has been awarded funding from USC Center for the Changing Family at USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences to find out.
Naya’s interest in women’s health developed during her early years, as she became aware of female family members attending to their healthcare needs. She was struck by the taboo nature of what she considered basic care. “Women’s health is not discussed openly, and we don’t realize how common many issues and conditions are. Even the topic of “trying to conceive” is taboo for many.”
Wanting to provide a personal, less intimidating experience for patients, Naya first considered becoming an OBGYN herself. Ultimately, she decided to try to make a difference by conducting research that may impact policymakers and the broader community. “It’s important to give a voice to these topics. The more we study it, the more people will talk about, and that’s where the policy changes are more likely to happen.”

Christine Hotaru Naya, MPH, APHA Maternal and Child Health Student Fellow, Keck School of Medicine Rosehill Foundation Fellow

Spurred on by the level of perceived anxiety and fear portrayed in the media, Naya decided to conduct a study around family planning in order to provide the scientific data she felt was lacking. “There were some studies looking at pregnant women, and some looking at contraceptive use, but no studies looking at people wanting to get pregnant, and none on the current pandemic.” Naya submitted her proposal to USC Center for the Changing Family and was awarded funds.
Naya developed and is currently conducting her study under the guidance her PhD and study advisor Genevieve Dunton, professor in the Department of Population and Public Health Sciences and director of USC REACH Lab, and co-advisor Darby Saxby, professor in the Department of Psychology at Dornsife. Both are members of USC Center for the Changing Family.
The study is currently recruiting, and participation consists of completing a 15-minute online questionnaire. Questions cover topics such as demographic characteristics, mental health, availability of resources, lifestyle, and – of course – if the pandemic has affected plans to expand the family.
Preliminary findings suggest that while over two-thirds of participants so far are proceeding as planned, access to resources plays a critical role for those choosing to wait. “People without insurance are more likely to change their plans, as are people who identify as LGTBQ+ or who may rely on assisted reproduction or fertility clinics that may be closed right now.”
Unexpectedly, notes Naya, some are trying to conceive earlier than originally planned, seeing a benefit to tackling prenatal health care issues, such as morning sickness, from home and citing a lack of parental leave during non-pandemic times.
For more information on this study or to participate, visit