Prospective Assessment of Pregnancy Intentions Using a Single- Versus a Multi-Item Measure


  • Megan L. Kavanaugh,

    Corresponding author
    1. Megan L. Kavanaugh is Ellertson Postdoctoral Fellow, Guttmacher Institute, New York
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  • Eleanor Bimla Schwarz

    1. Eleanor Bimla Schwarz Eleanor Bimla Schwarz is assistant professor of medicine, epidemiology, obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences, Center for Research on Health Care, Division of General Internal Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh
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CONTEXT: Traditional measures of pregnancy intentions that are dichotomous and retrospective do not fully capture the complexity surrounding women's plans to become pregnant.

METHODS: During January–June 2008, 249 women aged 15–44 awaiting pregnancy test results at family planning clinics in Pittsburgh completed a survey containing both single- and multi-item measures of pregnancy intentions. Chi-square analyses were used to assess differences between subgroups of women.

RESULTS: Few women were trying to become or planning for pregnancy (11% on the single-item measure; 20% on the multi-item measure), while approximately one-third of the sample were not trying to become or planning for pregnancy (31% on the single-item and 36% on the multi-item measure). The single-item measure categorized more women as ambivalent about pregnancy (58%) than did the multi-item measure (44%). Of women categorized as ambivalent by the single-item measure, 62% were also categorized as ambivalent by the multi-item measure. Overall, 68% of responses to the two measures were concordant. With both measures, women who were not planning or trying for pregnancy were more likely than those who were planning for pregnancy or who were ambivalent to indicate that they planned to have an abortion if their test was positive (27–29% vs. 0–2%).

CONCLUSIONS: Prospective assessment of pregnancy intention with either a single- or a multi-item measure may allow for a more nuanced assessment of pregnancy intention than current measures. The multi-item measure may reduce the number of women categorized as ambivalent and aid the development of targeted contraceptive and preconception counseling interventions.