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Using panel data to examine pregnancy attitudes over time

Heini Väisänen, Rachel K. Jones


There is a lack of research examining changes in women’s fertility attitudes over relatively short periods of time. The aim of this study was to determine whether and how women’s attempts to get pregnant and their desire to avoid pregnancy changed over six months’ time as well as which characteristics and circumstances were associated with these changes. Using multinomial regression, we analyzed two panels of data from a sample of approximately 3,000 U.S. adult women gathered within six months apart. Only 4% of the women were trying to get pregnant at both time points, but six percent went from trying to not or vice versa. Two-thirds reported a strong desire to avoid pregnancy at both points, but 9% transitioned from strong to not strong and an additional 7% transitioned from not strong to strong. Women who transitioned to a more serious romantic relationship were at increased risk of transitioning to trying to become pregnant and, not surprisingly, to a weaker pregnancy avoidance. Some of the variables we tested, including changes in employment status and race/ethnicity, were asso-ciated with one outcome but not the other. The results highlight the importance of taking a ho-listic perspective of women’s lives when studying pregnancy intentions and in reproductive health care services such as contraceptive counseling. Context matters and it may change rapidly.


fertility intentions; pregnancy avoidance; pregnancy planning; panel data

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