View Full Version : Quarter of Scots babies are 'happy accidents'

Friday, November 17th, 2006, 06:57 PM
PERCHED on the edge of the bath in the cottage she shared with her boyfriend, Eve McAlpine watched the tiny blue line on the home-pregnancy kit slowly appear. The line telling her she was pregnant for the first time merely confirmed her suspicions, but nonetheless it was only then that she realised her carefree existence would soon be over.

"I think 'Oh my God' were my first words, whereas my boyfriend, James, was stunned into silence," the 36-year-old professional recalls of the day she discovered she was pregnant four years ago.

"I knew James would be the father of my children one day - but that day was for when we had grown up. I had no intentions of starting a family, although we were living together and had bought our first home, in the Borders.

"James and I just took a deep breath and got on with things. We never considered terminating the pregnancy and just thought: Why not?"

Although her pregnancy may have been a surprise, her story is far from unusual: a new study published in medical journal the Lancet today reveals that one in three babies born in Scotland is the result of a pregnancy that was not "clearly intended".

Researchers questioned almost 3,000 women ranging in age from 15 to 44 attending an Edinburgh hospital for pre-birth care, as well as 810 women seeking abortions.

They found that a quarter of the mothers-to-be were ambivalent about their intention to become pregnant. But a tenth of pregnancies were totally unplanned. In fact, 40 of the women questioned who chose to carry on with their pregnancy had actually taken emergency contraception on the suspicion they had conceived.

"It is easy to assume women who have abortions did not want to get pregnant and those who have babies did - but that is too simplistic," says Professor Anna Glasier, the director of family planning at the Lothian Primary Care NHS Trust, who led the University of Edinburgh research.

For the majority of the group, the news was looked upon as more of a "happy accident" rather than a misfortune.

"There is never a perfect time to have a baby and often couples put it off because of work, holidays or other commitments," Prof Glasier said.

"Starting a family or having another baby is such a huge decision for women. Sometimes it is easier to let the decision be taken for you - and one way is to be careless with contraception."

Seven months after finding out she was pregnant, Ms McAlpine gave birth to Elliot, but life didn't become any more planned after that. Agreeing that they eventually wanted another child, the couple again left things up to chance. Three years later, Mitchell, now one, "just happened along again".

Ms McAlpine says: "I honestly believe that if you sit down and think about it, there is no good time to take the plunge. It is hard to choose to give up long lies, holidays, peace and quiet.

"So chance landed us with a tiny person on the way. It has been the making of our relationship and neither of us would swap our current life for our old single, childless days."

Despite the fact many of these unplanned pregnancies have happy endings, Prof Glasier says there are important lessons to be learned from the study.

"It's probably the case that, for 25 per cent of women or couples, they have just let their pregnancy happen and that's fine if it works for them," she said.

However, for women who really don't want to get pregnant, she suggests the message is: Get better at using contraception.

The study of almost 4,000 Scottish women published in The Lancet found that:

• A third of pregnancies destined to end in childbirth were not "clearly" intended.

• A tenth were totally unintended.

• A quarter of women were ambivalent about their intention to get pregnant.

Source (http://news.scotsman.com/scotland.cfm?id=1702262006)