Your Baby's First Year For Dummies
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An unexpected pregnancy can be the happiest news, the worst, or somewhere in between, depending on your situation. Deciding what to do when you’re unexpectedly pregnant is a huge decision, and you should know what all of your options are.

Keeping the baby

One option is to carry the baby to term and keep it. More and more single women are certainly doing this. Certainly, the stigma that was once attached to the status of unwed mother has all but vanished.

There are also disadvantages to this choice. First and foremost is that single parenthood is hard. The father may shirk his legal and financial duties toward the child. Younger women may miss out on their education, which deepens the challenges of single parenting. Also, having a male presence in the child’s upbringing has been found beneficial.

Of course, you can also marry the father of your child. If you love each other and want to raise a family together, then congratulations! If not, think carefully. The unintended conception of a baby has created many loving couples, but it may not the best way to start a marriage.

Putting the baby up for adoption

Another option is to have the baby and give it up for adoption. Many couples who can’t have children would make wonderful parents for your child. The social worker at any major hospital should be able to guide you into finding a qualified adoption agency.

Before deciding on adoption, make sure you are emotionally ready. Giving up a baby for adoption isn’t as easy as it may seem. As the baby grows inside of you, you won’t be able to keep yourself from growing attached to it, and after you actually see it, the task of giving it up will be heart-wrenching.

Another thing to consider is that, before you can give a baby up for adoption, the father must also agree. If the father isn’t available, later complications can arise if he decides that he wants to raise the baby.

Ending the pregnancy early

Some women may choose abortion. An abortion is the termination of a pregnancy by the loss or destruction of the fetus before it has reached viability—the ability to sustain itself outside the womb.

Ninety percent of artificially induced abortions are done in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Normally, the procedure takes about five minutes, is done on an outpatient basis, and has few complications. If you wait longer than 12 weeks, everything gets a lot more complicated. The procedures are more difficult to perform and involve added risks to the woman.

There are also options that can be used before you even know you’re pregnant. If you had unprotected intercourse or a contraceptive failure, such as a broken condom, emergency contraception pills (ECPs), which have been nicknamed morning-after pills, can be taken up to 72 hours after sexual intercourse to induce what normally would be termed a miscarriage. Some states sell a version of ECP as an over-the-counter drug to women 18 years and older. Others require a clinician. If you don’t have a gynecologist and want to find the address of a clinic near you, call 1-888-NOT-2-LATE (1-888-668-2528).

A similar option is called RU-486 (mifepristone). However, it can only be used if the woman is pregnant. RU-486 can be effective at aborting a pregnancy up to ten days after a woman has missed her period.

Making your decision

Don’t try to make the decision alone. Seek out guidance or counseling from someone, preferably someone who has helped others who’ve faced the same problems; family members may love you, but their own emotions may supersede your needs. Planned Parenthood is a nationwide agency that specializes in this field. Their counselors are usually well trained and very good at helping women go through the decision-making process.

But remember, this is about you. So seek out the guidance of whomever you feel can help you, but remember that the final decision rests with you.

Many agencies and clinics advertise that they are capable of guiding you, but be wary because some of these places are not impartial. Some have a greater interest in getting you to say yes to undergoing a procedure from which they make money than in offering you objective advice. Others may indicate that they give free advice, but the only advice that they give is not to have an abortion.

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