'Planned' and 'unplanned' pregnancy: deconstructing experiences of conception

Earle, Sarah (2004). 'Planned' and 'unplanned' pregnancy: deconstructing experiences of conception. Human Fertility, 7(1) pp. 39–42.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/1464727042000198078


This paper seeks to explore women's experiences of conception, and to deconstruct the dichotomy between the terms “planned” and “unplanned” pregnancy. It draws on interviews with 19 primagravidae conducted as part of a wider qualitative study of women's experiences of pregnancy and childbirth. Although the concept of pregnancy intention is widely regarded as ambiguous, and by some immeasurable, this paper draws on interview data to develop four categories of pregnancy intention. The first category (the planned pregnancy) is unambiguous and reflects the type of planned approach currently advocated by health professionals. The second category (the laissez-faire pregnancy) reflects the experiences of women who stop using contraception but adopt a more relaxed approach to pregnancy planning. The third category (the recalcitrant pregnancy) is far more ambiguous and describes the experiences of those who want to be pregnant but for whom it would not be socially acceptable to plan a pregnancy. The final category (the accidental pregnancy) is unambiguous and deals with pregnancies that could be described as unexpected, and arising due to genuine contraceptive failure. This paper concludes by highlighting the significance of pregnancy intention for health policy, health research, and for the health care providers. The importance of adopting a subjective approach to improve our understanding of women's experiences of conception is also highlighted.

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