The Relationship Between Ambivalent and Indifferent Pregnancy Desires and Contraceptive Use Among Malawian Women

Sarah Huber, The Ohio State University Allahna Esber, Henry M. Jackson Foundation for the Advancement of Military Medicine Sarah Garver, The Ohio State University Venson Banda, Child Legacy Hospital, Liongwe, Malawi Alison Norris, The Ohio State University

First published online:

| DOI: https://doi.org/10.1363/43e3417
Abstract / Summary

Pregnancy ambivalence and pregnancy indifference are thought to be associated with nonuse of contraceptives, but their conceptualization and measurement vary, and their relationship to contraceptive use in developing countries is poorly understood.


Data from the Umoyo wa Thanzi research program in rural Lilongwe, Malawi, were used to classify the pregnancy desires of 592 women aged 15–39 as antinatal, pronatal, ambivalent or indifferent, according to both the women's desire to conceive and their desire to avoid pregnancy. Logistic regression was used to assess the relationship between each of the four pregnancy desire categories and use of modern contraceptives.


Overall, 12% of women were classified as ambivalent, 32% as indifferent, 44% as antinatal and 12% as pronatal. In the logistic regression analysis, the odds of contraceptive use among women with indifferent pregnancy desires (having both a desire not to avoid pregnancy and a desire not to conceive) were twice those of women with pronatal desires (odds ratio, 2.2) and were similar to those among women with antinatal desires (2.7). In contrast, the odds of contraceptive use among women with ambivalent pregnancy desires (having both a desire to avoid pregnancy and a desire to conceive) did not differ from those of women who had pronatal desires.


Ambivalent and indifferent pregnancy desires are common in Malawi and are associated with modern contraceptive use in different ways. Understanding the complex nature of pregnancy desires may be valuable in improving family planning programs.

Author's Affiliations

Sarah Huber is a doctoral candidate, College of Social Work; Sarah Garver is a doctoral candidate, Department of Sociology, College of Arts and Sciences; and Alison Norris is assistant professor, College of Medicine and College of Public Health—all at The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH, USA. Allahna Esber is research analyst, Henry M. Jackson Foundation for the Advancement of Military Medicine, Bethesda, MD, USA. Venson Banda is clinical research technician, Child Legacy Hospital, Umoyo wa Thanzi Research Program, Lilongwe, Malawi.

Author contact: [email protected]


The views expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect those of the Guttmacher Institute.