The Ripple Effect of Unplanned Pregnancy

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Almost half (49%) of the 6.4 million pregnancies that occur annually in the United States are unplanned, according to a study by the Office of Population Research.


Many of these unintended pregnancies have happy endings, but studies show that, statistically, unplanned pregnancy has negative, lasting impact on the unexpected parents, the children and society as a whole.

That’s a tough pill to swallow. The following is an outline of the costs associated with unplanned pregnancies:

Cost to the Mother and Father

Post-partum Depression: Women who experience unplanned pregnancy are more likely to suffer from post-partum depression.

Physical Abuse: Women who become pregnant unexpectedly face increased risk of physical abuse.

Relationship Instability: Women who give birth after an unplanned pregnancy suffer greater relationship instability compared to women whose pregnancies were intended, according to Child Trends, a nonpartisan research organization out of Washington, DC.

Cost to the Child

Spina Bifida Risk Increased: When a pregnancy is unplanned, the mother does not have a chance to engage in safe preconception care, such as the consumption of adequate folic acid. Limited amounts of folic acid can contribute to neural tube defects, including spina bifida.

Preterm Delivery and Low Birthweight More Likely: Several studies indicate that babies who are born after unplanned pregnancies are more likely to be born early (subjecting them to additional health risks) and/or underweight.

Lower Test Scores: Child Trends reported that cognitive test scores were lower for two-year-old children who were born as a result of an unintended pregnancy than babies born as a result of a planned pregnancy. Tests included an assessment of skills including listening, vocabulary, communication, memory, exploring, problem solving and overall mental abilities.

Poor Mother/Child Relationship: Children who are born from unplanned pregnancies tend to have poorer relationships with their mothers, reports Child Trends, Inc.

Behavioral Issues: Children who were born as a result of unexpected pregnancies display higher levels of fearfulness by age two, according to the book The Best Intentions: Unintended Pregnancies and the Well-Being of Children and Families.

Delinquency: A 2006 study in the Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency found that these children may have higher levels of delinquency in adolescence than children born from intended pregnancies.

Price of Single Parenting: The majority of children born resulting from unplanned pregnancy are born to unmarried mothers, according to this article in The American Prospect. Children raised in one-parent families are:

  • 2x more likely to drop out of high school
  • 2.5x more likely to become teen mothers
  • 1.4x more likely to be out of school and work
  • 5x more likely to be poor

Children in single-parent homes also have statistically lower grade-point averages, fewer college aspirations and poorer school attendance. Additionally, they are more prone to divorce as adults.

Cost to Society

Financial Burden: The annual cost of unplanned pregnancies is $5 billion, which averages to $1,600 per pregnancy. Unintended pregnancies that result in childbirth make up $3.9 billion of this cost.

More Abortions: Although politicians tend to lump birth control and abortion services under one “family planning” umbrella, the two are really very different. Logically, the more prevalent the use of birth control, the lower the number of unplanned pregnancies, which are a direct cause of abortions. Of the roughly 3 million unplanned pregnancies each year, approximately 1.3 million end in abortion. This figure is higher than most other developed countries.


At Birth Control News, we don’t pretend to know the right time for you to have a child, but we do know that you deserve to be in control of when it happens. For that reason, we are here to supply you with birth control information, answer your questions about contraception and provide a support network.

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