Publication Date


Date of Final Oral Examination (Defense)


Type of Culminating Activity


Degree Title

Master of Science in Nursing



Major Advisor

Jane S. Grassley, Ph.D., RN


Dawn Weiler, Ph.D., APRN-ANP, BC


Abigail Gerding, Ph.D., RN


Background: In the United States, one half of all pregnancies are unintended. Research suggests that many women make a decision about their pregnancy immediately, taking action very quickly without any form of options counseling. Women oftentimes do not conceptualize their pregnancy as a scenario involving three alternative outcomes. Research has shown that when in a state of crisis, the decision-making process is diminished and the individual becomes vulnerable. Additionally, when making decisions in the absence of adequate social support, negative health outcomes can result.

Objectives: To explore nurses’ perceptions of the social support needs of women experiencing a crisis pregnancy and how they view their role in the management of care for this population.

Methods: Semi-structured phone interviews of six reproductive health nurses were used for data collection

Results: Nurses were able to clearly define the need for non-biased, non-judgmental interaction; however, they did not clearly define their role in addressing the social support needs of women experiencing a crisis pregnancy. Nurses may not adequately address each component of the Social Support Theory, particularly informational support, a critical component of making an informed and autonomous decision. Nurses did not see themselves as sources of support, nor did they seem to recognize the important role they play in a woman’s decision-making process. Options counseling was not consistently offered and nurses did not fully explain the details of every option.

Conclusions: When a woman’s emotional, informational, and instrumental social support needs are met, she is better equipped to make informed and autonomous decisions rather than reacting out of fear. Nurses who understand their role in working with women experiencing a crisis pregnancy have the opportunity to facilitate healthy decision-making. To best meet the needs of this population, nurses must have a sound understanding of the social support needs of this population to most effectively assist them in coping with the crisis.