Pregnancy intentionality in relation to non-planning impulsivity

UMMS Affiliation

School of Medicine; Senior Scholars Program; Department of Quantitative Health Sciences; Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology; Division of Behavioral and Preventive Medicine, Department of Medicine

Faculty Mentor

Molly E. Waring, PhD

Publication Date


Document Type



Behavior and Behavior Mechanisms | Obstetrics and Gynecology | Women's Health


BACKGROUND: Half of US pregnancies are unintended. Understanding risk factors is important for reducing unintended pregnancy rates.

AIM: We examined a novel risk factor for unintended pregnancies, impulsivity. We hypothesized that non-planning impulsivity, but not motor or attentional impulsivity, would be related to pregnancy intention.

METHODS: Pregnant women (N = 116) completed self-report measures during their second or third trimester. Impulsivity was measured using the Barratt Impulsiveness Scale (BIS-15); subscales measured motor, attentional and non-planning impulsivity (subscale range: 5-20). On each subscale, high impulsivity was indicated by a score of ≥11. Pregnancy intention was assessed by asking women whether they were trying to become pregnant at the time of conception (yes or no). Crude and multivariable-adjusted logistic regression models estimated the cross-sectional association between impulsivity and unplanned pregnancy.

RESULTS: Thirty-four percent of women reported that their current pregnancy was unplanned, and 32% had high non-planning impulsivity. Fifty-one percent of women with high non-planning impulsivity reported an unplanned pregnancy versus 25% of women with low impulsivity. Women with high non-planning impulsivity had 3.53 times the odds of unplanned pregnancy compared to women with low non-planning impulsivity (adjusted OR =3.53, 95% CI: 1.23-10.14). Neither motor (adjusted OR =0.55, 95% CI: 0.10-2.90) nor attentional (adjusted OR =0.84, 95% CI: 0.25-2.84) impulsivity were related to pregnancy intentionality.

CONCLUSIONS: High non-planning impulsivity may be a risk factor for unplanned pregnancy. Further research should explore whether increasing the use of long-acting reversible contraceptives or integrating if-then planning into contraceptive counseling among women with higher non-planning impulsivity can lower unplanned pregnancy rates.


UMCCTS funding, impulsivity, long-active reversible contraceptives, pregnancy intention, unplanned pregnancy

DOI of Published Version



Godiwala P, Appelhans BM, Moore Simas TA, Xiao RS, Liziewski KE, Pagoto SL, Waring ME. Pregnancy intentionality in relation to non-planning impulsivity. J Psychosom Obstet Gynaecol. 2016 Jun 20:1-7. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 27319571. DOI:10.1080/0167482X.2016.1194390. Link to article on publisher's website

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Journal of psychosomatic obstetrics and gynecology


Prachi Godiwala participated in this study as a medical student as part of the Senior Scholars research program at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

Related Resources

Link to article in PubMed

PubMed ID