Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Unplanned Pregnancy’s Effects on Mothers and Children

Nearly half of all pregnancies in the US today are unplanned. Though this surprise can be a wonderful one, it can also be a difficult adjustment. Indeed, some studies connect unplanned pregnancies with higher levels of stress and depression in mothers in the early months.

But could the aftereffects of an unintended pregnancy linger even longer? A new study in the Journal of Family Issues suggests so. Researchers followed more than 1600 families for 15 years, interviewing mothers of both planned and unplanned children soon after their babies were born and then at regular intervals until the children were in ninth grade. Mothers reported on their stress and depression levels; later, when the children were older, both they and their mothers rated the quality of their relationship.

Having an unplanned pregnancy didn’t seem to have long-term effects on relationship quality when mothers had low levels of stress or already had other children. But when mothers of unplanned firstborns were stressed, they became depressed and had more troubled relationships with their teens years later. As for mothers with an unplanned pregnancy who already had children, they were more stressed in the short term, but less likely to experience depression and parent-child relationship struggles in the long term.

Although new babies bring plenty of joy, an unplanned pregnancy can also be difficult. These researchers suggest that mothers learn positive coping skills in the early years to reduce their own stress and support the long-term health of their family relationships.

Source: Family Album Radio, Family Youth and Community Sciences Department, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida.

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