Stability of Retrospective Pregnancy Intention Reporting Among Women with Unwanted Pregnancies in the United States

  • Corinne H. RoccaEmail author
  • Mark R. Wilson
  • Minjeong Jeon
  • Diana G. Foster


Objectives Retrospective assessment of pregnancy intention may be unreliable as women’s perceptions of a past conception can change over time. We compared the stability of retrospective pregnancy intention reporting over 5 years among women who sought and either received, or were denied, an abortion. Methods We recruited women from 30 abortion facilities across the United States in 2008–2010. Participants, some who received abortions and others who were denied care because they presented beyond facilities gestational limits, were followed prospectively for 5 years (n = 827). At enrollment and semiannually from year-2 to year-5, women completed the London Measure of Unplanned Pregnancy (LMUP), a six-item measure (scored 0–12), regarding the index pregnancy. We used multivariable mixed-effects models to assess the stability of retrospective reports of index pregnancy intendedness and compared trajectories by group, accounting for site and participant clustering. Our hypotheses were that intention would tend towards “more intended” over time among women denied abortions, who carried the pregnancies to term, and remain stable among women who received the abortion. Results Baseline LMUP scores were low (mean: 2.8) and similar by study group. Scores increased among women denied the abortion by year-2 (from 2.9 to 3.5; p < 0.001) and were steady through year-5. For women having near-limit abortions, reported intentions were steady between baseline (mean: 2.7) and year-2 (2.8), and declined thereafter through year-5 (to 2.5; p < 0.001). Conclusions Women somewhat shifted their perceptions of their intentions in correspondence with the pregnancy outcome. Retrospective estimates may underestimate the degree to which births result from unintended pregnancy.


Abortion Pregnancy intention Reliability Retrospective measurement Stability Unintended pregnancy 



The authors thank Rana Barar, Heather Gould, and Sandy Stonesifer for study coordination and management; Mattie Boehler-Tatman, Janine Carpenter, Undine Darney, Ivette Gomez, Selena Phipps, Brenly Rowland, Claire Schreiber and Danielle Sinkford for conducting interviews; Michaela Ferrari, Debbie Nguyen and Elisette Weiss for project support; Jay Fraser and John Neuhaus for database and statistical assistance; and all the participating providers for their assistance with recruitment.


This study was supported by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, Office of Research on Women’s Health, Building Interdisciplinary Research Careers in Women’s Health Grant #K12 HD052163; the Wallace Alexander Gerbode Foundation; an anonymous foundation; and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health, Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health, Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences, School of MedicineUniversity of California, San FranciscoOaklandUSA
  2. 2.Graduate School of EducationUniversity of California, BerkeleyBerkeleyUSA
  3. 3.Graduate School of Education and Information StudiesUniversity of California, Los AngelesLos AngelesUSA

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