In this contribution unintended pregnancies are studied as a multidimensional concept from a life-course perspective. Standardized data on the prevalence of unwanted pregnancies in different stages of women's life course are combined with a qualitative analysis of the subjective meaning of “unwanted” and of subjective explanations of getting pregnant unintentionally.
The study “frauen leben 3” on family planning in the life course of 20–44 year old women was conducted on behalf of the Federal Centre for Health Education (BZgA) from 2011 until 2014 in four federal states in Germany. A standardized questionnaire was used to collect retrospective information on 4794 pregnancies (including induced abortions), and biographical in-depth interviews provide qualitative information on 103 unwanted pregnancies. The standardized data were analyzed with bivariate methods and multivariate logistic regression models. The qualitative procedure to construct typologies of subjective meanings consisted of contrasting cases according to the generative approach of Grounded Theory.
In contrast to unwanted pregnancies, mistimed pregnancies are characterized to a greater extent by negligence in the use of contraceptives, by a positive reaction to the pregnancy and by a more general desire to have a child. Four different subjective meanings of “unwanted” are constructed in qualitative analysis. The logistic regressions show that the selected factors that increase the likelihood of an unwanted pregnancy vary according to age and stage in the life course. The quantitative analysis reveals furthermore that relationship with a partner had a significant effect in all stages of the life course. The qualitative interviews specify the age- and life course-related aspects of these effects.