Are Attitudes about the Importance of Planning Pregnancies Related to Pregnancy Intentions?

Arthur Greil, Alfred University
Stacy Tiemeyer, Oklahoma State University
Karina Shrefffler, Oklahoma State University
Kathleen Slauson-Blevins, Old Dominion University
Julia McQuillan, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Unintended pregnancies are associated with negative outcomes for both mothers and children. While research has documented a variety of risk factors for unintended pregnancy, , little is known about whether pregnancy intentions are related to whether or not one believes that it is important to make childbearing plans or to act in accordance with them. To discover whether woman’s beliefs about pregnancy planning are associated with pregnancy intentions expressed at the time of the pregnancy, we studied all women (N=409) from the two-wave National survey of Fertility Barriers (NSFB) who said they intended another child and reported at least one pregnancy between waves. To evaluate the relationship between importance of planning pregnancies, measured at Wave1, and the intention status of the first pregnancy between waves, we employed multinomial logistic regression. The dependent variable was the three-category pregnancy intentions measure, classified in terms of three “trying to become pregnant,” “trying not to become pregnant,” and “okay either way.” “Trying not to become pregnant” was treated as the reference category. The focal independent variable was importance of planning, with women strongly agreeing, agreeing, disagreeing, or strongly disagreeing with the statement: “It is important to plan my pregnancies.” We treated importance of planning was treated as a categorical variable, with “strongly agree” treated as the reference category. Control variables included strength of fertility intentions; parity, age, union status, race, and education were included as control variables. Compared to women who strongly agreed that it is important to plan pregnancies, women who disagreed that it was important to plan pregnancies had higher odds of reporting that they were “okay either way” rather than trying to become pregnant at the time of their first pregnancy after Wave 1. Thus, attitudes toward the importance of planning pregnancies appear to affect fertility behavior and outcomes.

Introduction

Unintended pregnancies are associated with negative outcomes for both mothers and children. While research has documented a variety of risk factors for unintended pregnancy, including young age, unfavorable relationship status, race, and socio-economic status, less is known about the complex processes involved in women’s and couple’s decisions (or lack of decisions) regarding pregnancy and childbearing. Scholars have called for greater understanding of the complex dimensions of pregnancy intentionality in order to reduce negative outcomes associated with unintended pregnancy. Yet, little is known about whether pregnancy intentions are related to whether or not one believes that it is important to make childbearing plans or to act in accordance with them. It is possible that some women maintain an attitude that it is simply unimportant to plan for their pregnancies and that this attitude could in part explain high rates of unintended pregnancies. The goal this study was to discover whether woman’s beliefs about pregnancy planning are associated with pregnancy intentions expressed at the time of the pregnancy.

Pregnancy intentions are often measured in ways that classify pregnancies as either “planned” or “unplanned,” but classifying pregnancies this way ignores the possibility that some women may be ambivalent or uncertain about their pregnancy intentions. Previous research has found that nearly a quarter of American women are currently “okay either way” about getting pregnant A few studies have explored a middle-ground, or ambivalence, regarding pregnancy intentions. Therefore, we classify women’s pregnancies in terms of three categories: “trying to become pregnant,” “trying not to become pregnant,” and “okay either way.”

Methods

In this paper we use both waves of the National Survey of Fertility Barriers (NSFB), a longitudinal, nationally-representative survey of 4,796 women and a subset of their partners. The first wave, administered between 2004 and 2007, included a question asking women whether or not they felt it was important to plan their pregnancies. This question was asked only of the 2,860 women who said they intended to have another child. Wave 2 included questions about any pregnancies that occurred between waves. The analytic sample for this study includes all women (N=409) who said they intended another child and reported at least one pregnancy between waves. If women reported more than one pregnancy between waves, we analysed the first pregnancy only.

To evaluate the relationship between importance of planning pregnancies, measured at Wave1, and the intention status of the first pregnancy between waves, we employed multinomial logistic regression. The dependent variable was the three-category pregnancy intentions measure, with “trying not to become pregnant” treated as the reference category. The focal independent variable was importance of planning, with women strongly agreeing, agreeing, disagreeing, or strongly disagreeing with the statement: “It is important to plan my pregnancies.” We treated importance of planning was treated as a categorical variable, with “strongly agree” treated as the reference category. Control variables included strength of fertility intentions; parity, age, union status, race, and education were included as control variables.

Results

Table 1 presents descriptive statistics for the sample. Table 2 displays the results of the multinomial logistic regression analysis. Compared to women who strongly agreed that it is important to plan pregnancies, women who disagreed that it was important to plan pregnancies had higher odds of reporting that they were “okay either way” rather than trying to become pregnant at the time of their first pregnancy after Wave 1. Women with stronger fertility intentions had lower odds of reporting that they were trying not to become pregnant or “okay either way” rather than trying to become pregnant at the time of their first pregnancy. Compared to parity 0 women, parity 2 women had higher odds of reporting that they were trying not to become pregnant or “okay either way” rather than trying to become pregnant. Increased age was associated with lower odd of reporting trying not to become pregnant compared to trying to become pregnant. Compared to married women, never-married women had higher odds of reporting that they were trying not to become pregnant or “okay either way” rather than trying to become pregnant. Compared to white women, Black women had higher odds of reporting that they were “okay either way” rather than trying to become pregnant, and Hispanic women had higher odds of reporting that they were trying not to become pregnant rather than trying to become pregnant at the time of their first pregnancy after Wave 1

Conclusion

Thus, attitudes toward the importance of planning pregnancies appear to affect fertility behavior and outcomes. Future studies should explore the processes through which women and couples come to value the importance of parenthood more or less, as well as the process through which attitudes toward planning pregnancies is associated with outcomes.

Presented in Session 1232: Posters