Traditionally, the missed menstrual periods are supposed to be a time of joy. especially after suspicions of pregnancy are confirmed by the physician. Actually, pregnancy, planned or unplanned, causes mixed feelings in most expectant mothers. It is a rare mother who is totally joyful, all the time and in all facets of her personality, at the prospect of having a baby. On the other hand, the mother who, by the end of pregnancy, is still totally unadjusted to the idea of having a baby is also rare. If the pregnancy was a “planned” one, the expectant mother some-times feels that she is obliged to feel glad. Psychiatric interviews in depth have shown, however, that this is not always true. In fact, one study found that about one out of every eight women with planned conceptions developed very strong regrets about being pregnant.
Unplanned pregnancies, of count, are often harder to accept, but not always. It depends on the circumstances surrounding the birth as well as the health and adaptability of the mother. Some women take it philosophically, recognizing that there really is no completely convenient time to have a baby—so they might as well accept what comes. Such women soon look forward to the satisfactions of being a mother. Others find it harder to accept their condition. From a number of research studies we can get some indication of the circumstances in which preg•
nancy is joyfully accepted and those in which pregnancy is likely to be regretted. The number of children and the space between them are two very important factors in determining how a woman will feel about conception. For instance, Dr. Edwin Gordon asked expectant mothers. “Are you happy to be pregnant?” Most of the women who had no baby or just one baby said they were happy, but only about half who were expecting a third child said they were happy. And it was hardly surprising to learn that none of the few women who already had five or more children said they were happy about the new one coming along.
Another study concentrated on space between children. Only about one in eleven mothers whose babies had been born less than twenty-one months apart described themselves as delighted to find themselves pregnant the second time. The longer the space between babies, the more likely the mothers were to report pleasure at the idea of a new baby. Those with the traditional two-year gap were still not as likely to be delighted as those with a three- or four-year gap. Although babies conceived before marriage are often assumed to be unwelcome, this is by no means always the case.
The response to a baby conceived out of wedlock depends on the attitude of the social group, the personality of the individual, and the reaction of the girl’s family. In some societies premarital pregnancy is the natural first step toward marriage. Others, of course, have insisted that marriage must come first. Even within the same society the different social classes tend to have different feelings about premarital pregnancy.
For instance, in Eng-land. a study of women having first babies revealed that more than one in four of the poor mothers had a prenuptial pregnancy, whereas the race among the most affluent mothers was only one in fifty. Naturally, the feelings evoked by a baby due to arrive “too soon” will not be the same for a girl with many friends who have had the same experience, as for a girl who does not know anyone else in the same situation.
In America girls find themselves under strong emotional pressures if they become pregnant without a husband. Nevertheless, one study showed that one-third of all babies born in the United States in a two. year period had in fact been conceived out of wedlock, whether pre• maritally or otherwise. Although it is difficult to get accurate statistics, one nationwide study indicates that more than four out of five of the college women who become pregnant out of wedlock have abortions. The well-educated girl who goes through with her out-of-wedlock pregnancy is the exception.