, Volume 10, Issue 3, pp 265-276
Date: 28 Dec 2005

A Positive Orientation Toward Early Motherhood Is Associated with Unintended Pregnancy Among New Orleans Youth

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Objective: Characterizing young women's willingness to enter motherhood is critical to understanding the high rates of unintended pregnancy among women under 20 years. Our objectives were to discuss a measure called Positive Orientation towards Early Motherhood (POEM), and investigate its association with self-reported unintended pregnancy experience. Methods: We used data from 332 African-American women 13–19 years old recruited at public family planning and prenatal clinics in New Orleans. Using a series of ANOVAs and multinomial logistic regression, we assessed differences in POEM between four different outcome groups: women who were never pregnant and those who had only intended pregnancies, only unintended pregnancies and both unintended and intended pregnancies. Results: The data suggested that young women perceive pregnancy as an opportunity to assert responsibility, become closer with their families and achieve greater intimacy with their boyfriends. Multiple regression analysis indicated that this positive orientation toward early motherhood independently raised the likelihood that young women experienced unintended pregnancies. In particular, the perception that a pregnancy makes a young woman feel more responsible was associated with an increased likelihood that a young woman had only unintended pregnancies compared to no pregnancies at all. Interestingly, this perception did not differentiate young women who had only intended pregnancies from those who were never pregnant. Conclusion: When interpreting reports of unintended pregnancy, more attention should be given to young women's orientation toward early motherhood. Doing so will inform policies that address both personal and structural factors that contribute to persistently high rates of unintended pregnancy among adolescents.