Adult Birth Mothers Who Made Open Infant Adoption Placements after Adolescent Unplanned Pregnancy


  • The author reports no conflict of interest or relevant financial relationships.



To summarize birth mothers’ descriptions of how their adolescent or young adult unplanned pregnancies and decision for open infant adoption placement influenced their lives.


Naturalistic inquiry using unstructured interviews.

Setting & Methods

One to 2-hour telephone interviews with participants in their home settings were recorded and transcribed. Deidentified transcripts were analyzed for qualitative content themes.


Fifteen women who had experienced unplanned adolescent or young adult pregnancy and relinquished their infants through open adoption were interviewed. Birth mothers who had been members of an agency support group were identified by an agency representative as having been typical of open adoption and were purposively recruited for study participation.


Participants described the open adoption decision as “one of the most difficult but best” choices of their lives. Themes were summarized using the acronym AFRESH: A–adoption accomplishments, F–fresh start, R–relationship changes, E–emotions, S–support, H–healing. Findings indicated that benefits of open adoption outweighed challenges of pregnancy, birth, and emotional transitions. Birth children were perceived as thriving with adoptive families who were cherished like extended family. Birth mothers perceived themselves as being better people with better lives than before the unintended pregnancy. Growth with improved life direction was seen as a result of personal maturation from the experience.


Open adoption is reinforced as a positive resolution of adolescent unintended pregnancy. Birth mothers believed teens who feel “stuck” with a pregnancy should consider open adoption; nurses should provide support and uphold the process.