I used to think I understood what unplanned meant. Certainly, in high school, I didn't plan to become pregnant. Pregnancy would have felt like a disaster! And yet, now, I am not planning to become pregnant either, but a pregnancy would be wanted and wonderful. Does unplanned mean unwanted? Does it mean unexpected? Is it only planned if I marked the date of conception on the calendar three months in advance and set up a college account for the child-to-be three months before that? How do you categorize a "planned" pregnancy with unexpected bad timing, like a job loss at 6 months pregnant, or unexpected health problems?
Unplanned, but NOT Unexpected
Unplanned pregnancies may be unplanned, but they should not be unexpected. About 5% of women of child bearing age have an unplanned pregnancy each year. By age 45, more than half of American women have had an unplanned pregnancy. 52% of these women had not used contraception for more than a month when they got pregnant, and 43% had been using contraception incorrectly or inconsistently (ie. forgetting to use condoms or take pills). Only 5% had used contraceptives correctly and consistently.
What do these statistics tell me? Over the course of my lifetime, I am very likely to experience an unplanned pregnancy, and it is likely to be in response to deciding not to use any form of family planning, or using it incorrectly.
Planning for the Expected
Since the majority of women have an unplanned pregnancy before age 45, it makes sense to plan for it the same way NaturalGuy would plan for other likely circumstances - by saving money, investing time in a strong network of family and friends, and preparing ourselves mentally. We may not choose the time, but we can be well-prepared.
We need help preparing! The world we live in is not friendly to young families and is often judgmental of unplanned pregnancies. We would love for our family and friends to make the extra effort to make sure that our community is pro-family and pro-children.
Does it even make sense to call a pregnancy unplanned?
My grandmother doesn't know what unplanned pregnancy is. To my grandmother, a married couple must be planning on having children - after all, they knew what they were getting into when they got married! When a man and a woman love each other very much and are married, it is hardly surprising when children come.
Should NaturalGuy and I adopt this outlook? We have already started to use this perspective, but we've had trouble coming up with equally descriptive terms to describe pregnancy. Obviously, not all pregnancies are greeted with joy and excitement - some are a serious burden to even the most happily married couple. Here are some of the alternate phrases we've considered:
- Out-of-wedlock pregnancy - Describes a situation I wouldn't want to be in - unmarried and pregnant. Difficult to use in normal conversation because people will think you are judging single moms.
- Mistimed pregnancy - Describes a pregnancy that just didn't happen at the best time. Still makes it seem like it's the pregnancy that should be at another time, and not whatever else is going on.
- Unwanted pregnancy - Unambiguous, whether it was unplanned, or planned but complications occurred, the couple is no longer looking forward to the birth.
- Difficult pregnancy - Very ambiguous, but can be applied to pregnancies that are difficult because of health reasons or other circumstances.