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Matern Child Health J. 2000 Sep;4(3):155-62.

The intendedness of pregnancy: a concept in transition.

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Department of Maternal and Child Health, School of Public Health, University of Alabama at Birmingham, 35294-0022, USA.



Although interest in the intendedness or the planning status of a pregnancy goes back many centuries, it is only since 1941 that questions about these issues have been asked systematically in large-scale surveys. More recently, questions about intendedness have become standard features of the National Survey of Family Growth and of the Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS). Interest in and concern about the large numbers of unintended pregnancies reported in those surveys resulted in an Institute of Medicine report on the subject and the inclusion of a national health objective for increasing the proportion of pregnancies that are intended in Healthy People 2000 and Healthy People 2010.


The terms, "intended," "unintended," "mistimed," "wanted," "unwanted," and "planned" are often used without significant attention being paid to their meaning or how they are derived from survey questions. There is a particular need to distinguish between terms that define attitudes and those that define behaviors. In addition, research has revealed that women are often happy despite experiencing an unintended pregnancy and that contraceptive failures do not always result in a report of an unintended pregnancy.


Researchers have begun to ask questions about the meaning of the intendedness concept and its relationship to what women express as their feelings about pregnancies and births. This article, and this entire issue, is an attempt to make the reader aware of the current issues in this area and to suggest additional research that is needed to enable policy makers and program planners to design programs that will better assist couples in meeting their fertility goals.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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