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Pregnancy Scares and Subsequent Unintended Pregnancy

Publication Abstract

Download PDF versionGatny, Heather, Yasamin Kusunoki, and Jennifer S. Barber. 2013. "Pregnancy Scares and Subsequent Unintended Pregnancy." PSC Research Report No. 13-789. April 2013.

Context: A substantial number of young women report pregnancy scares during the transition to adulthood. A pregnancy scare occurs when a woman who wants to avoid pregnancy initially believes she is pregnant, but later learns she is not. And although pregnancy scares are likely to be important to our understanding of unintended pregnancy among young women, little research to date addresses this issue.

Methods: A 60-minute face-to-face baseline survey interview was conducted between March 2008 and July 2009 among a population-based sample of 1,003 young women. The interview assessed family background; demographic information; key attitudes, values, and beliefs; current and past romantic relationships; education; and career trajectories. At the conclusion of this baseline interview, all respondents were invited to participate in a 2.5-year journal-based study requiring completion of weekly surveys via the Internet and/or telephone. This component concluded in January 2012. Chi-square tests and regression analyses were conducted using data from both the baseline and weekly surveys to estimate relationships between sociodemographic characteristics, early pregnancy-related experiences, and subsequent pregnancy scares. Event history methods were used to assess pregnancy scares as a predictor of the risk of unintended pregnancy.

Results: African American race, lack of two-parent family structure, low income, low education, and cohabitation are all associated with pregnancy scares. Further, experiencing a pregnancy scare is a strong predictor of subsequent unintended pregnancy, independent of sociodemographic factors and early pregnancy-related experiences.

Conclusions: Experiencing a pregnancy scare may be an important empirical marker that health care providers could use in a clinical setting to identify women at high risk of an unintended pregnancy.

Country of focus: United States.

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