For others, however, the lack of a socially imposed timetable has left them even more anxious than before. Minus the fear of being judged for not hopping on the mommy express, young women have ample time to overanalyze the pros and cons of pregnancy and the trade-offs they'll make for parenthood. "A lot of women are now scared to take an active step in that direction," says Maidenberg. "Pregnancy that happens without really trying, on the other hand, feels like it was meant to be."
If that sounds like a cop-out, it just might be: The maybe-baby approach often boils down to avoiding stress by adopting a Zenlike outlook, says Mary L. Rosser, M.D., Ph.D., an obstetrician and gynecologist with Montefiore Medical Center in New York City. In other words, choosing not to choose allows some women to skirt the nerve-racking "Am I ready for kids?" question and the often stressful and emotional process of trying to conceive.
Nikki Brush, 31, has adopted such a mindset.
"The planning part of getting pregnant isn't something we're ready for," says the Portland, Oregon, resident, who's been married for nine years. "But we're at a point in our lives where a pregnancy would be OK. If it happens, it happens."
A Healthy Gamble?
Because the maybe-baby mentality flies in the face of a traditional approach to family planning, it has some healthcare providers grappling for context. Most doctors have typically given advice based on the long-held assumption that if a woman wasn't trying to get pregnant, she was trying to avoid it, says Rosser. And physicians believed that if a woman had a casual attitude about pregnancy, she might be putting herself--and her potential kid--at risk.
To wit, studies show that women with unplanned pregnancies are less likely to get early prenatal care and their babies have increased chances for preterm birth. Of course, a maybe-baby pregnancy isn't totally unplanned, but doctors worry that skipping out on early counseling could leave women in the dark about pregnancy-related health conditions, complications, or medication conflicts (normally harmless retinoid skin creams, for example, are hardly fetus-friendly). Plus, women who don't quickly realize they're expecting are more likely to engage in no-nos like boozy happy hours or social smoking, says Rosser.
Just ask Erin Riggio. Her low-stress maybe-baby approach ended up giving her more anxiety than anticipated when she discovered she was pregnant. Yep, she got preggers on her Italian getaway, and she spent the next few months worrying about whether she had inadvertently harmed her unborn child with too many sips of wine. "Of course, I immediately thought about all the things I shouldn't have done," she says. (Her baby, Calvin, is now a healthy 3-year-old boy.)
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