Background: Most pregnancies ending in therapeutic abortion are assumed to have been unintended. In the developed world, most arise from inconsistent or incorrect contraceptive use. Ambivalence about pregnancy might be associated with less effective contraceptive use.
Methods: Three hundred sixteen women undergoing abortion in Scotland were interviewed about contraceptive use at the time of conception. A modified measure of pregnancy intendedness was used to determine ambivalence.
Results: Pregnancy appeared to be clearly unintended for 92% of women. Sixteen percent were not using contraception and had higher intendedness scores (p<.001) than those using a method. Forty-four percent were using contraception inconsistently or incorrectly, almost always condoms or oral contraception, but method choice was not linked to pregnancy intendedness.
Discussion: Women who are ambivalent about the desire for pregnancy are less likely to use contraception. The challenge for reducing abortion rates lies in improving contraceptive use among the much larger group of women who do not intend to get pregnant but use contraception imperfectly.