Women's Healthcare Topics

Unplanned Pregnancy Choices

Reviewed by James Brann, M.D.

Unplanned Pregnancies are a Shock

Although pregnancy is a blessed and exciting event for many families, unplanned pregnancies can often come as a shock. Your emotions can range from joy to ambivalence or distress. This pregnancy may come at an inconvenient time—you may feel that you are not ready to raise a child. On the other side of the spectrum, you might be delightfully surprised because you have been looking forward to motherhood for years!


However, if you are facing the reality of an unexpected pregnancy, you will want information to help you make an informed decision on what to do next.

What is right for you? Keeping the baby, adoption, or termination of your pregnancy (abortion)?

Your decision will be influenced by several factors, including your health, personal values, beliefs, and current life situation.

If you haven't already been to the doctor, you should schedule an appointment right away. You want to confirm your pregnancy and see how many weeks along you are.

At your doctor's visit, come with a list of questions that you may have. These can include:

    Learn about your choices with an unplanned pregnancy.
  • Do I have any medical problems that pose a risk to the baby's health?

  • Do you, the doctor, notice any signs that something could be wrong with the pregnancy?

  • What are the limitations of my options based on how far along my pregnancy is?

  • What does this choice mean for me later in life? Future pregnancies? Physical and emotional state?

As you are making your decision regarding your unplanned pregnancy, ask yourself these questions: :

  • How are you going to care for your newborn? Do you have a partner and family members that are willing to share the responsibility of raising a baby?

  • Babies are a 24-hour responsibility, and they require a lot of work. Do you have the emotional and physical stamina to manage your new role as a parent?

  • Can you financially handle the cost of raising a child? (Data shows that the average American will spend a couple hundred thousand dollars on raising a child from infancy to adulthood.)

  • Parenthood can be a very rewarding experience, but it will also affect your relationship, social life, and career. Are you willing to accept how being a parent will change your lifestyle?

If you end up deciding to continue your pregnancy and raise your child, you will want to start prenatal care as soon as possible. The earlier you start prenatal care, the healthier your baby will be and the smoother your pregnancy will progress.

If you want to deliver your baby, but you do not want to raise him/her, adoption is a great option! You may worry about your ability to provide and care for your child, and you want to give your little one a better life.

Because adoption is a permanent decision, it should not be taken lightly or considered too quickly. Give yourself plenty of time to think and make your decision. Talk to your partner, family, and friends about the possibility of placing your child up for adoption. Ask for their thoughts and feelings, but remember that the ultimate decision is yours.

Before making the decision to adopt, ask yourself these questions:

  • Can you be a mother or are you just "not ready?"

  • Can you manage the emotions and feelings that come with giving up your baby?

  • What about your partner? Is he supportive in this decision?

If you decide to go through the adoption process, be prepared for the legal work and emotions it brings. The first thing you need to do to start the adoption process is to contact an adoption agency or an adoption lawyer.

Next, the lawyer or adoption agency will help you create an adoption plan. This plan allows you to influence the various stages of the adoption process. You can choose the adoptive parents; determine if you want contact with them; if you want them present at the baby's birth; and if you want to see your baby after he/she is born.

After the adoption plan is complete, the next step is to let the lawyer know when you are going to the hospital to deliver. After your baby is born, you and the baby's birth father will sign the final papers, and the baby will go home with his/her new parents.

  • Open Adoption: You meet the potential adoptive family prior to the birth. You have access to the adoptive family's contact information. You and your adoptive family can choose to meet and remain in contact throughout your child's lifetime. You may be able to see your child grow up, not as a parent but in an "extended family" type of relationship. In open adoptions, your child will grow up knowing they are loved by their family members—both their birth parents and their adoptive ones.

  • Semi-Open Adoption: You choose the adoptive family through written profiles. You will only know the adoptive parents' first names. A third party will mediate contact between you and the adoptive parents before and after your baby's birth. After birth, meetings are arranged through a mediator. You do not have direct contact with your child throughout his/her lifetime, but the adoptive parents will sometimes update you on your child's life via letters and pictures.

  • Closed/Confidential Adoption: You allow the adoption agency to choose your baby's adoptive family. You do not have contact with the adoptive family or with your child at all.

Abortion

If you decide you do not want to continue with your pregnancy, your physician may perform an abortion ("induced abortion"). An abortion is usually performed before week 12 of your pregnancy.

Induced abortions are either done by surgery or with medication.

Your doctor should explain all the risks that come with each type.

The longer you wait to make your decision to have an induced abortion, the more complications and risks you face.

As with all surgeries, abortions come with some physical risks. These include hemorrhaging (bleeding), infection, damage to the uterus, and maternal death. Maternal death from abortion is low, but it is lowest before 8 weeks. The risk factor increases after 18 weeks.

Women who undergo abortions may experience a range of emotions afterwards, including relief, guilt, sadness, and a sense of loss. Though no evidence from large surveys link abortions to an increased risk of subsequent depression, abortions are a serious matter and should not be taken lightly.

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