For years, it's been a generally held belief that women of childbearing age fall neatly into two camps: those trying to conceive and those not trying to conceive. But a new nationwide study suggests that nearly a quarter of women are ambivalent—considering themselves "OK either way" about getting pregnant.
Published online May 07, 2010, in an advanced issue of the Maternal and Child Health Journal, the study of nearly 4,000 sexually active women ages 25 to 45, found that about 71 percent said they were not trying to get pregnant, while 6 percent said they were. But nearly one in four, 23 percent, told researchers they were "OK either way"—they were neither trying to conceive, nor trying to prevent a pregnancy.
Among women who had no children, 60 percent said they were trying to not get pregnant, 14 percent were trying to get pregnant and 26 percent responded that they were "OK either way."
"If healthcare providers only ask women if they are currently trying to get pregnant and women say no, then the assumption is that they are trying not to get pregnant," says Julia McQuillan, associate professor of sociology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the study's lead author. "Clearly, many women are less intentional about pregnancy. Yet this group should be treated as if they will likely conceive and should therefore get recommendations such as ensuring adequate folic acid intake and limiting alcohol intake."
How do your beliefs about conception and pregnancy stack up? The study also examined attitudes and social pressures regarding conception and pregnancy. Among the findings:
- Women who said they were "OK either way" about becoming pregnant reported the highest number when asked what the ideal number of children would be—3.17 on average. They also tended to be slightly more religious than women who were either trying to get pregnant or not trying to get pregnant.
- 73 percent of women who said they were "OK either way" said they would like a baby, compared with 34 percent of women who were not trying to get pregnant, and 95 percent of women who said they were trying to get pregnant.
- Those who were trying to get pregnant were more likely to report that having a child—or another child—was very important to their partner compared with women in the other two groups.
And no matter how they felt about pregnancy, women across all three groups had certain beliefs in common. Researchers noted that half of all women in the survey said their career was very important to them, while 45 percent said the same about having an adequate amount of leisure time. All three groups—women who were trying, women who weren't trying, and women who were OK either way—reported similar attitudes about work and leisure.