Finding out about an unexpected pregnancy can bring a roller coaster of emotions for both the mother and father. Sometimes the circumstances aren’t under the umbrella of a married couple trying to get pregnant, and that’s okay. However, it can be unsettling in certain situations to know how to take the next step in life with a baby on the way. If you are a soon-to-be mother, you may be wondering if you should tell the father; perhaps you are a soon-to-be father and you suspect your partner is pregnant. What should either partner do? What rights does the father have? Does a pregnant woman have to tell the father? How do you move forward and what are the options? What is the process like if he wants to be involved or tries to stop the mother from pursuing an adoption all together?

The Test is Positive… Now What?

If you’re the mother, here are some questions you should ask yourself:

- Are you in a place financially, emotionally, mentally, etc. to take care of a baby if you choose to keep him or her? If not, do you have a good support system to help you (ie, the father, family, or friends)?

- Do you currently have a job or are a full-time student? If so, how would having a baby affect that?

- Would you be able to put everything on hold to care for the baby?

- Is childcare or other assistance available to you?

If you’re the father, here are some questions you should ask yourself:

- How can you help the mother of your child, whether the relationship is romantic or platonic

- Are you willing and able to step up and be a father?

- If the mother doesn’t want you involved, how should you react?

- What are an unmarried father’s rights?

- What if finding a family for the baby is brought up? Can you raise the baby by yourself, or should you let the baby be placed for adoption?

Keeping the Baby In a Healthy Relationship

There are some instances in a romantic or even a platonic relationship where the mother and father get along well. Sometimes, if they have a healthy foundation, they can choose to raise a child together or co-parent separately. In this case, it’s a good idea to tell the father as soon as you find out. There are a lot of unique ways to tell the father that you’re expecting. You could always go with the classic, “Guess what? I’m pregnant!” An unexpected pregnancy doesn’t mean that the baby is unwanted.

If you’re unsure of who the father is, but you want him to be a part of the baby’s life no matter who it is, then a paternity test is imperative. Once you have that out of the way and he is willing to help out, you both should plan for the future. If you’re not living together, start thinking about how you are going to handle custody of the child. How will you split expenses? Should you get lawyers involved? Whether you’ve known him for a long time or you don’t know him well at all, he could be very excited about this new adventure and be willing to help in any way he can.

Dads, a great way to show that you want to be involved is to help with essentials such as clothes, diapers, wipes, formula, etc. Another way to be helpful is to help around the house (whether you live together or not) so the mother doesn’t have as much on her plate. It’s a lot of work to grow a human. The best thing you can do is to be there for her emotionally. Parenthood can be stressful in and of itself and having an unexpected pregnancy can add a lot to a new mother’s anxiety. Actions definitely speak louder than words. Show her that you care regardless of your relationship with her.

Even though you’re not the one baking a bun in the oven for 9 months, it can still feel overwhelming and maybe even scary to think that you’re going to be a father. It’s okay to feel as though you are not ready and worried to think about what life is going to be like after the baby is born. There are a lot of resources available to new fathers so that you can feel more confident and ready to be a dad. If you’re a reader, check out these 5 books to help put your mind at ease.

Keeping the Baby in An Unhealthy Relationship

It’s possible that the mother and father just don’t get along and don’t have a really strong relationship. This can make planning for the future very difficult if you feel like you can’t agree with the other parent about anything. If that’s the case, then getting legal counsel early to make certain arrangements is ideal. Technically, the mother doesn’t have to tell the father if she’s expecting his child. That being said, the father does have rights if he is made aware and chooses to be involved. Sometimes you as parents might need to put your differences aside to co-parent smoothly. Think about your child and the environment you want to raise him or her in. There should be as little tension and hostility as possible.

If you told the father about the pregnancy and he doesn’t want to be involved, then it’s up to you to decide how you want to move on. One option is to have him terminate his parental rights so you as the mother can be in complete control of how you raise the baby. Another option is to go through the court system so you can have help and assistance in raising the child. However, that might make things messier and the father might fight harder to not be involved.

Does a pregnant woman have to tell the father? Technically, the answer is no. Yes, the father has rights and they should be respected in most cases. Unfortunately, it’s possible that there are circumstances where telling the father about the pregnancy isn’t safe for the mother or future child. If you’re in an abusive relationship, please get help and support immediately. Your safety and the safety of your baby is most important. In this kind of situation, support from others is your best bet in overcoming this part of your life. In any situation, whether it be domestic abuse, addictions, homelessness, etc., both parents need to work toward creating a healthy environment for raising a baby.

Finding a Family to Adopt the Baby

Sometimes you may feel like you will not be able to give your child the life that he or she deserves. Don’t feel ashamed of wanting to give your child a better life. Just because you won’t have the parental rights if you place your child through adoption, it doesn’t mean that you won’t have a relationship with your child. There are plenty of resources out there to help you during and after the adoption process. If you’re unsure of who the father is or if he’s unaware of the adoption plan, most states will usually let you go through with finding an adoptive family for your child. The birth father only has a certain amount of time to try and stop the adoption (usually 30 days). However, he is legally able to be granted custody if his rights aren’t already terminated. Try getting in touch with your state’s department of human services to see what that process will look like.

Dads, if the mother wants to find a family for the baby, you have legal ramifications and rights if you want to be involved in your child’s life. Your first option is to have sole custody of the baby. The mother can relinquish her rights and you will be the provider and caretaker. However, if she doesn’t want you to have custody, then you will have to prove to the court that you are able to take care of the child. You will also need to show that your home environment is stable, finances are consistent, and that you’re mentally and emotionally able to raise a child on your own.

You may decide that you’re also unable to raise a child on your own and that’s perfectly fine. Even if you decide to terminate your rights, you can still be involved in the adoption process. You may be able to help pick the family and can even form a relationship with them, especially if the adoption is open.

For both birth parents, it’s also possible for family members to take the baby as legal guardians or adopt them as their own child. The family can choose to be as involved as they and the birth parents want. The courts usually try to have children stay with a family from either parent if they are able and willing to do so. Otherwise, they usually end up with a prospective adoptive family or go into the state’s foster care system. Most family members are eligible for temporary guardianship if the parents don’t want to terminate their rights and they’re unable to take care of their child.

Differences Between Open and Closed Adoptions

In an open adoption, both the mother and father can choose to still be a part of their child’s life even though they are unable to take care of him or her. You can communicate with the parents prior to the baby’s birth via face-to-face visits, social media, or phone calls. Open adoptions are becoming more popular since studies have shown that having contact between the birth family, adoptee, and adopted family helps the relationships grow even stronger in the long run.

A semi-open adoption occurs when a third party is a mediator for both the birth and adoptive parents. Communication is always through the third party (ie, an attorney) instead of straight from the birth parents to the adoptive parents and vice versa. The adoptive parents might send pictures and updates to the birth parents, but it’s definitely more closed off than an open adoption.

Lastly, closed adoption is very private. There is usually no two-way communication or even mediated communication. Most information on both ends is scarce, so there’s no way for birth parents to check up on the adoptee. Birth parents may not be able to get information about the case either. Typically, an adoptee won’t be able to find out information on his birth parents until he turns 18. This can be difficult for birth parents since they aren’t in the loop about the adoptee. It can also be hard on the adoptee because she may want to figure out who she really is and where she came from. Adoptive parents may struggle if they feel that their adopted child might put distance between them to find the birth parents.

Final Thoughts

Based on the question, “Does a pregnant mother have to tell the father?,” there is a lot of information and resources available for both soon-to-be mothers and fathers. It’s perfectly normal to feel completely overwhelmed about this unexpected pregnancy. Just remember that you have options to think about.

To sum up the options for expectant mothers and fathers:

- You can keep the baby and raise him or her together or co-parent separately.

- Moms, you can keep the baby and have the father either not involved or somewhat involved.

- Dads, you have the right to raise your child if you want to.

- Both parents can agree on who they want their child to be raised by if they decide to go through the adoption process.

- You can still have a relationship with your child and the adoptive family if you decide on adoption.

If you have any questions that weren’t answered here, please call the Gladney Center for Adoption at 800-452-3639 or visit their website.

If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, please call the Domestic Violence Hotline at 800.799.SAFE (7233) or visit their website to chat with someone to get help.