Pregnancy intendedness and the association with physical, sexual and emotional abuse : a European multi-country cross-sectional study

Authors & affiliation

Mirjam Lukasse, Made Laanpere, Helle Karro, Hildur Kristjansdottir, Anne-Mette Schroll, An-Sofie Van Parys, Anne-Marie Wangel, Berit Schei


Background: Unintended pregnancies are common and when not resulting in a termination of pregnancy may lead to unintended childbirth. Unintended pregnancies are associated with increased health risks, also for women for whom pregnancy continues to childbirth. Our objective was to present the prevalence of unintended pregnancy in six European countries among pregnant women attending routine antenatal care, and to investigate the association with a history of physical, sexual and emotional abuse. Methods: A prospective cross-sectional study, of 7102 pregnant women who filled out a questionnaire during pregnancy as part of a multi-country cohort study (Bidens) with the participating countries: Belgium, Iceland, Denmark, Estonia, Norway and Sweden. A validated instrument, the Norvold Abuse Questionnaire (NorAq) consisting of 10 descriptive questions measured abuse. Pregnancy intendedness was assessed using a single question asking women if this pregnancy was planned. Cross-tabulation, Chi-square tests and binary logistic regression analysis were used. Results: Approximately one-fifth (19.2%) of all women reported their current pregnancy to be unintended. Women with an unintended pregnancy were significantly younger, had less education, suffered economic hardship, had a different ethnic background from the regional majority and more frequently were not living with their partner. The prevalence of an unintended pregnancy among women reporting any lifetime abuse was 24.5%, and 38.5% among women reporting recent abuse. Women with a history of any lifetime abuse had significantly higher odds of unintended pregnancy, also after adjusting for confounding factors, AOR for any lifetime abuse 1.41 (95% CI 1.23-1.60) and for recent abuse AOR 2.03 (95% CI 1.54-2.68). Conclusion: Women who have experienced any lifetime abuse are significantly more likely to have an unintended pregnancy. This is particularly true for women reporting recent abuse, suggesting that women living in a violent relationship have less control over their fertility.

Publication date:


Staff members:

An-Sofie Van Parys

Link to publication

Open link


Pregnancy_intendedness.pdf (open)

Related publications