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An Unplanned Pregnancy - What Are Your Options?

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Unwanted pregnancy is a reality for many students. It can happen to the most responsible sexual partners. A recent study indicated that 16.5% of students surveyed have been pregnant or have impregnated someone. 53.8% of the pregnancies were accidental.

If you suspect you may be pregnant, go immediately to the Doctor to medically confirm your suspicions or the results of a home pregnancy test. If you are not pregnant, ask about your birth control options. If you are pregnant, you have some decisions to make. You can have and raise the baby, you can have the baby and place it for adoption, or you can terminate the pregnancy.

This is a very personal and difficult decision to make. It is better to make a decision early in the pregnancy and get the appropriate medical care. However, you should take as much time as needed to make a decision that is well thought out. You should understand that there will be time limitations on when abortions can be legally performed.

Often the decision you make will be about what is best at this time; at another point in your life the decision might be different. In making your decision, you may:

  • think about your own personal beliefs, values and practices
  • assess your existing relationships (partners, family, and friends) and the support that these relationships need and can provide
  • evaluate financial and social realities
  • look at your living conditions and life circumstances
  • examine your feelings about becoming a parent and about parenting in general
  • explore spiritual, religious and cultural beliefs
  • consider the reactions of others to your decision

As with any hard decision, you need to come to some understanding within yourself about whatever decision you make. It is very common for women to have a variety of emotional reactions to an unplanned pregnancy. Dealing with your feelings is an essential part of making a decision you can live with.

You may wish to seek advice when making this decision. Who you talk to is entirely up to you. Each of us has our own needs for privacy and for emotional, physical, economic and spiritual support. You may want to seek out people who are knowledgeable (to provide information or referrals), non-judgmental, supportive (whatever your decision), and someone you are comfortable talking to. Some women talk to counselors, health care providers, family, friends, or a member of the clergy. Whoever you talk to, you should never feel coerced or forced to make a decision that is not your own or that you are not ready to make.

  • Having and raising the baby

Raising a child requires great physical and emotional demands, but it also can bring great joy. A strong support system will make it easier to raise the child. Raising a child means making some sacrifices – goals may have to be put on hold. Your life will change drastically – you may not be able to participate in the normal activities of someone your age. You will grow up fast. When considering continuing a pregnancy, there will be practical decisions around choosing a health care provider, keeping healthy through pregnancy, and choosing how and where the delivery will occur.

  • Adoption

In an adoption, a child is legally raised by new parents and a new birth certificate is issued. When the child is born, the mother will be required to sign legal documents that end her rights as the mother and gives consent to place the child for adoption. Depending on the state, the father may or may not be involved in the adoption. The baby’s father, if known, may have legal rights. After a waiting period, the adoption becomes final. There are a few different types of adoption:

  • Open adoption — the biological mother and the adoptive parents may exchange information about each other.
  • Closed adoption — neither the biological mother nor the adoptive parents know the identity of the other. Important medical and sexual history may be exchanged.
  • Agency adoption — adoptive parents are chosen through an agency after careful screening.
  • Independent adoption — lawyers, doctors, counselors, or independent organizations are involved in the adoption process and in the placement of the baby

When considering adoption, you will want to contact agencies working in this area to find out about the process and how it works. You may want a doctor or healthcare provider who is knowledgeable about your needs to support you through the adoption process.

  • Abortion

An abortion is a medical or surgical procedure to end a pregnancy. State laws vary and in some states minors may need parental consent, parental notification or court authorization to get an abortion. A surgical abortion does not take long and can be performed in a doctor’s office or clinic. Abortions performed after 12 weeks of pregnancy are usually more complicated. If possible, the decision to have a surgical abortion should be made before the twelfth week of pregnancy. A medical abortion is another option. It involves a combination of drugs taken over several days. It can be performed in a doctor’s office or in a clinic up to 49 days after the last period began. Some women prefer medical abortions, because they allow more privacy, require no anesthesia or surgery, and can be done very early in the pregnancy. An abortion is considered to be a low-risk procedure. It is less risky than childbirth. Complications can include bleeding or infection. A follow-up visit is required and necessary to ensure that the procedure worked, that you are healing as expected, and to get birth control. You may experience feelings of guilt, anger, loss or regret. You may feel relieved. These feelings are normal. Counseling can help you deal with them. When considering abortion, you need to know what procedures are available in your community and where. You may have to travel to some facilities. According to a study by the Allen Guttmacher Institute, one in five abortions are performed on women attending college.

Occasionally, you will see advertisements near schools for help with your pregnancy. Be careful – some of these places operate with a hidden pro-life agenda. If you seek the help of one of these clinics and feel like you are being coerced into something you are not comfortable with, get up and leave. Do not be concerned with offending anyone. You must be true to yourself and your beliefs, not someone’s hidden agenda.

Remember that most states have “Safe Haven Laws”. You can relinquish an infant within 72 hours of birth to any emergency medical services provider, police officer or firefighter. The individual relinquishing the infant will remain completely anonymous and will not be investigated for abandonment.

Remember that for the determined student who is willing to work hard, there are always options to continue your education. Unfortunately, most women who choose to take time off from school to care for a child generally have difficulty returning. The degree of paternal and family support received tends to influence this.

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