Pregnancy intention, demographic differences, and psychosocial health

J Womens Health (Larchmt). 2011 Aug;20(8):1215-23. doi: 10.1089/jwh.2010.2379. Epub 2011 Jun 14.


Objectives: We explore the psychosocial, demographic, and maternal characteristics across wanted, mistimed, and unwanted pregnancies.

Methods: Data from 1321 women from a prospective cohort study of pregnant women in Durham, NC, are analyzed. Psychosocial correlates were obtained through prenatal surveys; electronic medical records were used to ascertain maternal health and pregnancy outcomes.

Results: Sixty-two percent of the women indicated an unintended pregnancy, with 44% (578) mistimed and 18% (245) unwanted. Only 38% of the pregnancies were characterized as wanted. Women with unwanted and with mistimed pregnancies were similar demographically, but they differed significantly on psychosocial profiles and maternal characteristics. Women with mistimed and with wanted pregnancies differed in demographics and psychosocial profiles. Wanted pregnancies had the healthiest, mistimed an intermediate, and unwanted the poorest psychosocial profile. Women with unwanted pregnancies had the highest depression, perceived stress, and negative paternal support scores (p<0.05) and the lowest self-efficacy, social support, and positive paternal support scores (p<0.05). In multivariate analyses, women with riskier psychosocial profiles had higher odds of being in the unwanted category. Controlling for psychosocial and demographic variables, perceived stress and positive paternal support remained significant predictors of belonging to the unwanted and mistimed groups.

Conclusions: Fully characterizing pregnancy intention and its relationship to psychosocial profiles may provide a basis for identifying women with highest risk during pregnancy and early motherhood. Women with unwanted and mistimed pregnancies may appear similar demographically but are different psychosocially. Women with unwanted pregnancies have multiple risk factors and would benefit from targeted interventions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Demography
  • Depression* / etiology
  • Depression* / prevention & control
  • Early Medical Intervention
  • Female
  • Human Characteristics
  • Humans
  • Intention*
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy, Unplanned / psychology*
  • Pregnancy, Unwanted / psychology*
  • Pregnant Women / psychology*
  • Psychology
  • Risk Factors
  • Risk-Taking
  • Social Support
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Stress, Psychological* / etiology
  • Stress, Psychological* / prevention & control