Original research article| Volume 99, ISSUE 1, P16-21, January 2019

Planned, unplanned and in-between: the meaning and context of pregnancy planning for young people



      To understand how young people conceptualize planned, unplanned and “in-between” pregnancies.


      We conducted individual qualitative interviews with 50 young (ages 18–24) women and their male partners (n=100) in the San Francisco Bay Area to investigate prospective pregnancy intentions. In this analysis, we focused on participants' conceptualization of planned and unplanned pregnancies, as well as a status in between planned and unplanned.


      Conceptualizations of pregnancy planning were influenced by personal experiences and life circumstances, including previous unplanned pregnancies. While many participants held up planned pregnancies as an ideal, the majority of participants (n=71) also felt that a status in between planned and unplanned pregnancy existed. Many described this in-between stage occurring when someone is “not not trying” or would find an unplanned pregnancy acceptable. Notably, a few participants mentioned that pregnancy planning was not possible because either it was uncommon among their peers or they felt a general lack of control over pregnancy.


      Our analysis suggests that binary operationalization of pregnancies as “planned” and “unplanned” neglects the complexity of young people's lived experiences and perspectives. Contraceptive counseling approaches that allow patients the flexibility to express their considerations and feelings toward a potential future pregnancy could improve the quality of family planning visits and patient–provider interactions.


      The traditional binary conceptualization of pregnancies as planned and unplanned may not holistically capture the diverse perspectives of young people. Increased understanding of the complexities in young people's conceptualizion of pregnancy planning can inform family planning care that is inclusive, relevant and supportive of a variety of perspectives.


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