Attitudes Toward Becoming Pregnant

It's a Non-issue for Many Women

One quarter of all U.S. women of childbearing age couldn't care less about becoming pregnant and aren't even trying, but would be happy whether they conceive or not, according to a recent study.

"This finding dramatically challenges the idea that women are always trying, one way or another, to either get pregnant or not get pregnant," said professor of sociology Julia McQuillan, of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and lead author of the study.

A further 71% of the 4,000 sexually active female study participants in the 25-45 age range said they weren't trying to become pregnant, while another 6% said they were actively trying to conceive. However, almost one in every four participants, or 23%, said they were, "OK either way," which means they aren't trying to conceive but neither are they taking steps to prevent pregnancy.

Mistaken Assumptions

McQuillan explains that most health care providers will assume a woman doesn't wish to become pregnant if she says she's not trying to become pregnant. But in this study it becomes clear that some women don't have intentions one way or the other about becoming pregnant. The implications of this finding are that such women should be considered as though they will conceive and, therefore, should receive recommendations about diet, healthy lifestyle, and proper folic acid intake.

From Delayed Motherhood...

These study results arrive at a time when the demographics of U.S. motherhood have undergone a dramatic shift. Over the last two decades, women have begun to have children at a much later age. They are also far better educated than they were 20 years ago says another study, issued by the Pew Research Center. They are also less often married.

In 2008, the average age of a first-time U.S. mom was 25, one year older than in 1990. The average age of all women who delivered babies in 2008 was 27, one year older than in the year 1990.

...To Single Motherhood

According to the Pew study, 41% of U.S. births in 2008 were attributed to single women. This is up from 28% in 1990. When broken down according to race, 72% of the black women who'd had babies were unmarried, 53% of the Hispanic women, 29% were white, and 17% were Asian. The overall rate of increase during this 20 year span was highest among the white and Hispanic women.

When participants were asked why they'd wanted their first child, most of them (87%) said, "The joy of having children," was deemed important or very important, according to the Pew study. But almost half of the respondents said there was no desire or intention involved: "It just happened."

Additional findings:

· Women who reported they were fine whether they became pregnant or not also indicated that the ideal number of children, in their opinion, would be 3.17 on average.

· Of the ambivalent women interviewed in the study, 73 percent said they would like to have a baby, compared to 34 percent who were not making an effort to conceive, and 95 percent who were actively trying to become pregnant.

· The women who were trying to become pregnant with their first baby or with another child were more likely to report that having a child was very important to their partner. Within the group of women who had not had children and were trying, 40 percent said it was important to their partner to have a child.

· Although 45 percent of the women included in the survey said that having adequate leisure time was important to them, half of all the women in the survey indicated t

heir career was very important to them. Regardless which group the women fell into, they all reported similar attitudes about work and leisure.

The study also gave more accurate measures of women's pregnancy intentions, which are important for estimating unmet needs for contraception, building more effective family planning programs, promoting infant health and helping maternal and infant well-being.


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