Unintended Pregnancy, Open Adoption, and Birth Mother's Voices

Monday, 30 October 2017: 3:45 PM

Lynn B. Clutter, PhD
School of Nursing, The University of Tulsa, Tulsa, OK, USA

Unintended pregnancy is a national and global issue where 40-45% of pregnancies are mistimed or unwanted (Finer & Zolna, 2016; Sedgh, Singh, & Hussain, 2014). Unintended pregnancy forces decision making for a pregnancy resolution choice. Children born of unintended pregnancies have reduced health and mental health wellbeing indicators. Similarly, an unintended pregnancy resolution choice affects the pregnant woman’s future quality of life.

One pregnancy resolution option is adoption placement where birth and adoptive families communicate. This is open adoption. The adoption triad: birth family, adoptive family, and adoptee can be greatly influenced by how the adoption takes place (agency, private attorney, kinship) and the degree of ongoing openness. In general, openness in adoption results in better post-adoption adjustment, increased satisfaction with the process, and better grief resolution (Child Welfare Information Gateway, 2013a; Grotevant, McRoy, Wrobel, Ayers-Lopez, 2013; Henney, Ayers-Lopez, McRoy, & Grotevant, 2007). Additionally, increasing degree of openness corresponds with significantly improved birth mother adjustment (Cowie, 2011; Ge, et al. 2008).

Adoption placement is a milestone in birth mother’s lives. Yet of all members of the adoption triad, birth mother voices are least heard. Results of two qualitative research studies: one of adults who placed as teens and one of adults who placed in their twenties will be shared. The naturalistic inquiry used a sampling that was purposive from one agency’s records of past birth mothers. Telephone interviews of birth mothers were recorded, transcribed, de-identified, and analysed for qualitative themes. Research findings of the two studies of birth mothers (ages 13-29) who had ongoing openness revealed content themes of favourable impacts on their lives.

Retrospective views of adolescent birthmothers versus those who were in their twenties at the time of placement suggest some differences in process and satisfaction with outcome. However both groups affirmed that this was one of the most difficult but best choices of their lives resulting in personal growth and improved quality of life. Additional satisfaction came with knowing the wellbeing of birth children and having some degree of input into the developing child’s life. Findings suggest that retrospective satisfaction with their own decision to place versus parent continues.

An example quote from a birth mother is: “Having him has just changed my life. Open adoption is definitely a good thing because I get to see him all the time. You know, we’re involved. But it is definitely hard. I have gained a family.”

Implications for those in the adoption triad and particularly birth mothers will be addressed in the presentation. Additionally discussed will be implications for nursing care of birth mothers in various settings. Overall, open adoption is reinforced as a positive resolution of unintended pregnancy for birth mothers.