Objectives

Research suggests that a substantial minority of women are unsure if they want to have (more) children. This study examines whether this is a temporary or long-term outlook and which characteristics are associated with uncertainty about future childbearing intentions.

Methods

Panel data from a national sample of 2,353 nonsterilized U.S. women aged 18 to 39 years were gathered at three points in time between 2012 and 2013. Women who indicated they were “not sure” if they wanted to have any (more) children were classified as uncertain. Random effects and fixed effects logistic regression were used to determine which baseline and time-varying characteristics were associated with fertility uncertainty and changes in uncertainty.

Results

Although 39% of the sample reported uncertain fertility intentions on at least one survey, only 9% were uncertain at all three. Characteristics associated with uncertainty included being ages 30 and older, having one or more children, perceiving one's partner to have uncertain childbearing intentions, and having a strong desire to avoid pregnancy. Characteristics associated with a decreased likelihood of uncertainty included relationship happiness and having a recent discussion about childbearing intentions with a health care provider.

Conclusions

At a given point in time, a substantial minority of women is uncertain whether they want to have more children, but it seems to be a temporary or transitional stage for most.