The Impact of Depression and Childhood Trauma on Young Women’s Attitudes Towards Pregnancy Open Access

Moore, Amber (Spring 2020)

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Unintended pregnancies, comprising nearly half of all pregnancies in the U.S., have been a significant concern for decades due to their negative impact on the individual, community, and global scale. Many factors have been shown to increase the risk of having an unintended pregnancy, including having a history of childhood trauma and experiencing moderate/severe depressive symptoms. However, almost all of this research focuses on actual pregnancies, and very little on the desires and attitudes of a woman as she navigates through the pre-pregnancy process. Research has shown that pregnancy attitudes help determine fertility intention, and that women with ambivalent attitudes are less likely to use contraception, and are at a higher risk for unintended pregnancies. This study examined the association between childhood trauma and depression and women’s attitudes towards a hypothetical pregnancy to better understand their role in unintended pregnancy.

To understand these associations, this study utilized baseline data on 187 young women aged 15 to 24 years old that participated in the Young Women’s Stress Study. Bivariate analyses and multivariate logistic regressions were conducted to address the two research questions. For the total sample, one hundred and forty-four (73.3%) women had ambivalent pregnancy attitudes. Women with ambivalent pregnancy attitudes were more likely to be experiencing moderate/severe depressive symptoms and have a history of childhood trauma than those with anti-conception attitudes. Through multivariable logistic regression, this study found that those with a history of childhood trauma were three times as likely to have ambivalent pregnancy attitudes compared to those with no history, and that the relationship was significant. This study also found a relationship between moderate/severe depressive symptoms and ambivalent pregnancy attitudes, although this was not found to be significant in this sample.

The results of this study suggest that women with a history of childhood trauma or moderate/severe depressive symptoms are more likely to have ambivalent pregnancy attitudes, which may place them at risk for unintended pregnancies. The impact of trauma and depression on pregnancy attitudes and the subsequent associations with pregnancy warrant further research. 

Table of Contents


Unintended Pregnancy 1

Public Health Significance of Unintended Pregnancy 1

Measuring Unintended Pregnancy 2

Pregnancy Attitudes 3

Depression 5

Public Health Significance of Depression 5

Depression and Unintended Pregnancy 7

Childhood Trauma 8

Public Health Significance of Childhood Trauma 8

Childhood Trauma and Unintended Pregnancy 9

Gaps in the Literature 10

Purpose Statement and Hypothesis 11


Study Sample and Design 12

Measures 13

Pregnancy Attitudes 13

Depression 14

Childhood Trauma 15

Covariates 16

Data Analysis 18



Implications and Future Directions 26

Strengths and Limitations 29

Conclusion 30



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