Women’s Preventive Services Guidelines

Guideline Development

The HRSA-supported Women’s Preventive Services Guidelines were originally established in 2011 based on recommendations from a Department of Health and Human Services' commissioned study by the Institute of Medicine (IOM), now known as the National Academy of Medicine (NAM). Since then, there have been advancements in science and gaps identified in the existing guidelines, including a greater emphasis on practice-based clinical considerations.  To address these, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) awarded a five-year cooperative agreement in March 2016 to convene a coalition of clinician, academic, and consumer-focused health professional organizations and conduct a scientifically rigorous review to develop recommendations for updated Women’s Preventive Services Guidelines in accordance with the model created by the NAM Clinical Practice Guidelines We Can Trust. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists was awarded the cooperative agreement and formed an expert panel called the Women’s Preventive Services Initiative.

The purpose of the Women’s Preventive Services Guidelines is to improve women’s health across the lifespan by identifying preventive services and screenings to be used in clinical practice. The Women’s Preventive Services Initiative will review the recommendations biennially, or upon the availability of new evidence.  Topics for future consideration can also be submitted on a rolling basis at the Women’s Preventive Services Initiative website .

Under section 2713 of the Public Health Services Act, non-grandfathered group health plans and issuers of non-grandfathered group and individual health insurance coverage are required to cover specified preventive services without a copayment, coinsurance, deductible, or other cost sharing, including preventive care and screenings for women as provided for in comprehensive guidelines supported by HRSA for this purpose.

Updated HRSA-Supported Women's Preventive Services Guidelines

HRSA is supporting the Women’s Preventive Services Initiative clinical recommendations listed below for preventive services that address health needs specific to women and fill gaps in existing guidelines.*

Breast Cancer Screening for Average-Risk Women

The Women’s Preventive Services Initiative recommends that average-risk women initiate mammography screening no earlier than age 40 and no later than age 50. Screening mammography should occur at least biennially and as frequently as annually.  Screening should continue through at least age 74 and age alone should not be the basis to discontinue screening.

These screening recommendations are for women at average risk of breast cancer. Women at increased risk should also undergo periodic mammography screening, however, recommendations for additional services are beyond the scope of this recommendation.

Breastfeeding Services and Supplies

The Women’s Preventive Services Initiative recommends comprehensive lactation support services (including counseling, education, and breastfeeding equipment and supplies) during the antenatal, perinatal, and the postpartum period to ensure the successful initiation and maintenance of breastfeeding.

Screening for Cervical Cancer

The Women’s Preventive Services Initiative recommends cervical cancer screening for average-risk women aged 21 to 65 years. For women aged 21 to 29 years, the Women’s Preventive Services Initiative recommends cervical cancer screening using cervical cytology (Pap test) every 3 years.  Cotesting with cytology and human papillomavirus testing is not recommended for women younger than 30 years. Women aged 30 to 65 years should be screened with cytology and human papillomavirus testing every 5 years or cytology alone every 3 years. Women who are at average risk should not be screened more than once every 3 years.

Contraception**

The Women’s Preventive Services Initiative recommends that adolescent and adult women have access to the full range of female-controlled contraceptives to prevent unintended pregnancy and improve birth outcomes.  Contraceptive care should include contraceptive counseling, initiation of contraceptive use, and follow-up care (e.g., management, and evaluation as well as changes to and removal or discontinuation of the contraceptive method). The Women’s Preventive Services Initiative recommends that the full range of female-controlled U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved contraceptive methods, effective family planning practices, and sterilization procedures be available as part of contraceptive care.

The full range of contraceptive methods for women currently identified by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration include: (1) sterilization surgery for women, (2) surgical sterilization via implant for women, (3) implantable rods, (4) copper intrauterine devices, (5) intrauterine devices with progestin (all durations and doses), (6) the shot or injection, (7) oral contraceptives (combined pill), 8) oral contraceptives (progestin only, and), (9) oral contraceptives (extended or continuous use), (10) the contraceptive patch, (11) vaginal contraceptive rings, (12) diaphragms, (13) contraceptive sponges, (14) cervical caps, (15) female condoms, (16) spermicides, and (17) emergency contraception (levonorgestrel), and (18) emergency contraception (ulipristal acetate), and additional methods as identified by the FDA.  Additionally, instruction in fertility awareness-based methods, including the lactation amenorrhea method, although less effective, should be provided for women desiring an alternative method.

Screening for Gestational Diabetes Mellitus

The Women’s Preventive Services Initiative recommends screening pregnant women for gestational diabetes mellitus after 24 weeks of gestation (preferably between 24 and 28 weeks of gestation) in order to prevent adverse birth outcomes. Screening with a 50-g oral glucose challenge test (followed by a 3-hour 100- g oral glucose tolerance test if results on the initial oral glucose challenge test are abnormal) is preferred because of its high sensitivity and specificity.

The Women’s Preventive Services Initiative suggests that women with risk factors for diabetes mellitus be screened for preexisting diabetes before 24 weeks of gestation—ideally at the first prenatal visit, based on current clinical best practices.

Screening for Human Immunodeficiency Virus Infection

The Women’s Preventive Services Initiative recommends prevention education and risk assessment for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection in adolescents and women at least annually throughout the lifespan.  All women should be tested for HIV at least once during their lifetime. Additional screening should be based on risk, and screening annually or more often may be appropriate for adolescents and women with an increased risk of HIV infection.

Screening for HIV is recommended for all pregnant women upon initiation of prenatal care with retesting during pregnancy based on risk factors.  Rapid HIV testing is recommended for pregnant women who present in active labor with an undocumented HIV status. Screening during pregnancy enables prevention of vertical transmission.

Screening for Interpersonal and Domestic Violence

The Women’s Preventive Services Initiative recommends screening adolescents and women for interpersonal and domestic violence at least annually, and, when needed, providing or referring for initial intervention services. Interpersonal and domestic violence includes physical violence, sexual violence, stalking and psychological aggression (including coercion), reproductive coercion, neglect, and the threat of violence, abuse, or both. Intervention services include, but are not limited to, counseling, education, harm reduction strategies, and referral to appropriate supportive services.

Counseling for Sexually Transmitted Infections

The Women’s Preventive Services Initiative recommends directed behavioral counseling by a health care provider or other appropriately trained individual for sexually active adolescent and adult women at an increased risk for sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

The Women’s Preventive Services Initiative recommends that health care providers use a woman’s sexual history and risk factors to help identify those at an increased risk of STIs. Risk factors may include age younger than 25, a recent history of an STI, a new sex partner, multiple partners, a partner with concurrent partners, a partner with an STI, and a lack of or inconsistent condom use. For adolescents and women not identified as high risk, counseling to reduce the risk of STIs should be considered, as determined by clinical judgement.

Well-Woman Preventive Visits

The Women’s Preventive Services Initiative recommends that women receive at least one preventive care visit per year beginning in adolescence and continuing across the lifespan to ensure that the recommended preventive services, including preconception, and many services necessary for prenatal and interconception care are obtained.  The primary purpose of these visits should be the delivery and coordination of recommended preventive services as determined by age and risk factors.

Implementation Considerations

While not included as part of the HRSA-supported guidelines, the Women’s Preventive Services Initiative also developed implementation considerations, available at http://www.womenspreventivehealth.org/ , which provide additional clarity on implementation of the guidelines into clinical practice.  The implementation considerations are separate from the clinical recommendations, are informational, and are not part of the formal action by the Administrator under Section 2713.


* Non-grandfathered plans and coverage (generally, plans or policies created or sold after March 23, 2010, or older plans or policies that have been changed in certain ways since that date) are required to provide coverage without cost sharing consistent with these guidelines beginning with the first plan year (in the individual market policy year) that begins on or after December 20, 2017. Before that time, non-grandfathered plans are generally required to provide coverage without cost sharing consistent with the 2011 guidelines.

** The guidelines concerning contraceptive methods and counseling described above do not apply to women who are participants or beneficiaries in group health plans sponsored by religious employers. Effective August 1, 2013, a religious employer is defined as an employer that is organized and operates as a non-profit entity and is referred to in section 6033(a)(3)(A)(i) or (iii) of the Internal Revenue Code. HRSA notes that, as of August 1, 2013, group health plans established or maintained by religious employers (and group health insurance coverage provided in connection with such plans) are exempt from the requirement to cover contraceptive services under section 2713 of the Public Health Service Act, as incorporated into the Employee Retirement Income Security Act and the Internal Revenue Code. HRSA also notes that, as of January 1, 2014, accommodations are available to group health plans established or maintained by certain eligible organizations (and group health insurance coverage provided in connection with such plans), as well as student health insurance coverage arranged by eligible organizations, with respect to the contraceptive coverage requirement. See Federal Register Notice: Coverage of Certain Preventive Services Under the Affordable Care Act (PDF - 327 KB)