Pregnancy and Parenting Features

Postpartum Depression Likely After Surprise Pregnancies

Women who find themselves unexpectedly pregnant are four times greater to experience postpartum depression at approximately the one year mark. This is suggested from new research published in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

Research Statistics

The research, done within the University of North Carolina birthing centers surveyed expectant mothers regarding whether their pregnancy was intentional at 15-19 weeks of gestation. Women were identified as having unwanted, mistimed or unwanted pregnancies. There were 433 women (64%) with a purposeful pregnancy, 207 (30%) were mistimed and 40 (6%) had an unwanted pregnancy. Unexpected pregnancies were designated as unwanted and mistimed pregnancies. Data was analyzed for 688 women at the three month mark and 550 women twelve months after birth.

Elevated Risk

Results conclude there’s a higher risk of postpartum depression in women with unexpected pregnancies at both three months (11% vs. 5%) and twelve months (12% vs. 3%). The elevated risk was greatest at 12 months and indicates that accidental mothers have a long term chance of depression. When poverty status, education level and age were considered, mothers with unplanned pregnancies were twice as likely to develop postpartum depression one year later.

The writers concede that unexpected pregnancies may have long term effects on the emotional health of new mothers. Doctors could acknowledge pregnancy intention at appointments as well as offer support during and after pregnancy.

PPD Factors

One of the co-authors of the article, Dr. Rebecca Mercier, stated that there are many factors that contribute to postpartum depression. The end result of this research show that unexpected pregnancies that result in live birth are also a contributing component.

Accidental pregnancies that are carried to term could have long term effects on new mothers. Doctors should then consider asking about pregnancy at early appointments to check for accidental pregnancy. Women who report their pregnancy wasn’t intended or was unwanted would benefit from earlier or more specific screening during and after pregnancy.

Simple, cost effective screening mediations to point out at-risk women could allow these interventions when necessary and could potentially avoid complications from upcoming unexpected pregnancies.


Mike Marsh, BJOG Assistant Editor-in-chief stated unexpected pregnancies are connected to substandard prenatal care, high risk pregnancy behaviors, increased incidences of early birth and low birth rate, below average social status during childhood and increases in medical costs.

Marsh goes on to say the relationship between accidental pregnancy and post-birth effects has been researched to great effect. However, even less is known about the effects of unintended full-term pregnancies on the mother herself. The conclusions of this research focus on how unexpected pregnancy affects the mother. A relationship is clearly seen between postpartum depression and accidental pregnancies.