A Blessing I Can’t Afford: Factors Underlying the Paradox of Happiness about Unintended Pregnancy

Abigail R. A. Aiken, Princeton University
Chloe Dillaway, University of Texas at Austin
Natasha Mevs-Korff, University of Texas at Austin

We explored the reasons why women profess happiness about unintended pregnancy and how these relate to their motivations to avoid conception. Between September 2013 and February 2014, we interviewed 27 women (19 Latina, 8 white) selected because they wanted no more children and consistently declared either happiness (n=17) or unhappiness (n=10) at the prospect of pregnancy. We found that genuine happiness about the idea of pregnancy may exist simultaneously with earnest intent to prevent conception. Happiness was explained as heartfelt feelings about children trumping practical considerations, perception of low psychosocial stress resulting from another child, and the ability to view unintended pregnancy as fate or God’s plan. The exception was happiness conveyed due to social pressure, predominantly expressed by foreign-born Latinas. Automatically equating happiness with ambivalence may undermine women's desires to use highly-effective contraception to prevent pregnancy. Yet among women experiencing unintended pregnancies, feelings may matter for maternal-child health outcomes.

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Presented in Session 120: Fertility Intentions: Causes and Consequences