As part of its series of studies about women’s and men’s family planning, the Bundeszentrale für gesundheitliche Aufklärung (BZgA) has commissioned, as another milestone, the comprehensive study ‘women’s lives 3 – family planning in women’s lives’. Its focal point is unintended pregnancies and pregnancy conflicts. Following the investigation of unintended pregnancies and pregnancy terminations among minors, this study surveyed 4,002 women between the ages of 20 and 44 by way of a questionnaire; 97 women gave a qualitative interview.

Around one third of all pregnancies in the women’s lives were not planned at the time they occurred. For some of these pregnancies there was a desire for children, but the pregnancy occurred earlier than desired. Others did not want a child. Even though pregnancies at the wrong (too early) time or without a desire for children are by no means rare, there are, in Germany, hardly any current scientific insights into the contributing factors, such as the role of inadequate contraception. There is also not much information about the motivations behind carrying an unintended pregnancy to term or terminating it.

The Statistisches Bundesamt (Federal Statistics Office) can provide reliable data about the development of absolute figures and rates of pregnancy terminations, based on the data from the local registers of inhabitants. The goal of the population survey ‘women’s lives 3’ is not, therefore, to obtain statements about the general prevalence of terminations, especially since we must assume that a certain percentage of terminations would not be mentioned by the participants in such a survey.

Instead, the goal of the study is to obtain insights into the following:

in what phases of life and in what living conditions and in what situational conditions children are undesired;
what women think about ‘the right time in life to have a child’ and the appropriate family size;
why, despite the option of using reliable contraception, a pregnancy could occur, contrary to the women’s personal wishes;
how the decision was made regarding whether to keep the baby or to terminate the pregnancy.

The relationship with the partner is taken into account just as professional goals and job training plans are. The study makes it possible to compare women with different educational backgrounds and from different regions (Baden-Württemberg, Berlin, Lower Saxony, Saxony).


Cornerstones of the study
A broad understanding of family planning
Family planning is more than just contraception or planning to have children. It includes all of the decisions and developments with which private life with or without children is shaped.
Biographical approach and life-circumstance approach.
This survey asked retrospectively about family planning events in women’s lives, such as all of the participants’ pregnancies. The survey also asked about the age/life-phase as well as the life circumstances during which the pregnancies occurred.
Combination of methods: integration of the perspective of women and women experts
In addition to the statistical biographical data, the study evaluated the women’s own stories about their lives to capture their personal viewpoints and reasons. In addition, the study wanted to know about the perspective of women counsellors from family and pregnancy advice centres.

Socio-geographical approach: a comparison between federal states
The four selected states represent the differences between east (old GDR) and west Germany as well as differences between ‘city states’ (Berlin, Hamburg and Bremen, here represented by Berlin) and the rest (here represented by Baden-Württemberg, Lower Saxony and Saxony), with regard to a number of indicators in family planning and social structure. This study is representative of the individual states.

Comparisons over time
Since this study is geared to previous studies, it is possible to make comparisons with results from 1998 for women without a migrant background, from 2007–2010 for migrant women, and from 2001 for men.