Health Policy

“Baby? Baby Not?”: Exploring Women’s Narratives About Ambivalence Towards an Unintended Pregnancy

Askelson, N.M.; Losch, M.E.; Thomas, L.J.; Reynolds, J.C.
Sep-05-2016

Abstract

Unintended pregnancy among adult women is a significant public health challenge in the United States. Research has identified ambivalence as a risk factor for not using contraceptives. The qualitative study presented here examined women’s narratives about ambivalence toward unintended pregnancy. In-depth interviews were conducted in 2012 with 28 women aged 20–45 years old who were recruited primarily via flyers in family planning clinics in a rural, Midwestern state. The interviews were coded for salient themes. Almost 40 percent of the women said that they had experienced an unintended pregnancy. All but two women expressed ambivalence, stating that they had both good and bad feelings about getting pregnant unintentionally. Women expressed if a pregnancy did occur, they would just have to step up and “deal with it.” They recognized a baby was something special but not without negative aspects. Those who were less ambivalent (and more negative) had compelling reasons why, but even those women expressed some positive feelings. At times, ambivalence was expressed by negative reactions about having a child that coincided with believing that becoming a parent or having another child would have a positive impact on themselves. This study provides an examination of women’s narratives about ambivalence toward pregnancy. Overall, women’s narratives constructed ambivalence as arising from both positive and negative emotions, as well as beliefs about costs and benefits, associated with unintended pregnancy. Given its association with a lack of contraceptive use, understanding the components of ambivalence (e.g., feelings, beliefs) is important to bolstering interventions aimed toward decreasing ambivalence and increasing contraceptive use.