Unintended pregnancy associated with unhealthy behaviors

September 1, 2010

Women with unintended pregnancies are more likely than women with intentional pregnancies to continue or initiate unhealthy behaviors after they know they are pregnant.

Women with unintended pregnancies are more likely than women with intentional pregnancies to continue or initiate unhealthy behaviors after they know they are pregnant.

Investigators interviewed about 4,000 mothers of infants born from 1997 through 2002 as part of the National Birth Defects Prevention Study. About 40% of the women interviewed said that they had not intended to become pregnant, including those who were ambivalent about their pregnancy or thought it was mistimed.

Compared with mothers with intended pregnancies, a higher proportion of mothers with unintended pregnancies reported smoking cigarettes, being exposed to secondhand smoke at home, and using illicit drugs before and after the diagnosis of pregnancy, and they were less likely to discontinue unhealthy behaviors after they realized that they were pregnant. Further, a larger proportion of women with unintended pregnancies did not take folic acid-containing vitamins before or after conception.

Investigators noted that the study's findings highlight the importance of preventing unintended pregnancies as a means of improving infant health.

Dott M, Rasmussen SA, Hogue CJ, Reefhuis J; National Birth Defects Prevention Study. Association between pregnancy intention and reproductive-health related behaviors before and after pregnancy recognition, National Birth Defects Prevention Study, 1997-2002. Matern Child Health J. 2010;14(3):373-381.