Unintended pregnancies, whether aborted or carried to term, may impose mental health burdens. To learn more, investigators examined data from the naturalistic, ongoing, 60-year Wisconsin Longitudinal Study, which has followed women who graduated from high school in 1957.
In 1975, only 2 years after Roe vs. Wade, they were asked about their pregnancy histories and intentions (mean age, 36); in 1992, they self-reported depressive episodes and completed a depression inventory (mean age, 53). Of 2749 white women with pregnancies, 94% married by 1975, 1218 reported only planned pregnancies, 563 had ≥1 unwanted pregnancy, and 966 had ≥1 mistimed pregnancy.
Analyses excluded women with self-reported prepregnancy depressive episodes and controlled for early-life socioeconomic status, town size, marital status, age at first pregnancy, number of children, high school academic performance, adolescent IQ, religious affiliation, and Big Five personality traits. Compared to women with only wanted pregnancies, women with unwanted pregnancies had higher depression scores in 1992 and were more likely to report a serious depressive episode (only planned pregnancies, 25%; unwanted pregnancies, 33%; mistimed pregnancies, 29%). Spacing intervals suggested that unwanted pregnancies tended to occur after women thought they had completed their childbearing (first pregnancies, 2%; last pregnancies, 40%); mistimed pregnancies decreased with birth order (first pregnancies, 27%; last pregnancies, 16%).
Editor Disclosures at Time of Publication
Disclosures for Joel Yager, MD at time of publication
Grant / Research support Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality
Editorial boards Bulletin of the Menninger Clinic; Eating Disorders: Journal of Treatment and Prevention; Eating Disorders Review (Editor-in-Chief Emeritus); International Journal of Eating Disorders; UpToDate; FOCUS: The Journal of Lifelong Learning in Psychiatry
Leadership positions in professional societies American Psychiatric Association (Chair, Council of Quality Care)