Unplanned pregnancies can certainly be an incredibly stressful experience, but it is more common than you might think. In fact, it is estimated that 50 percent of American women will experience an unplanned pregnancy sometime in their life. It is important to know your unplanned pregnancy options. You have three options: parenting, abortion, or adoption. The right decision will be the one that’s best for you and your baby; only you can make that choice.
One of your unplanned pregnancy options is to parent. Parenthood is rewarding, joyful, and life-changing, but it also requires a lot of patience, love, and commitment. Many parents say that becoming a parent was the best choice they ever made, but what is right for you depends solely on your situation.
You must consider many factors when deciding whether or not you want to become a parent, including the well-being of your baby, finances, school, work, relationships, family, personal beliefs, and life goals.
Here are some questions you might want to ask yourself in deciding whether you want to become a parent:
– Am I ready to be completely responsible for all of my child’s needs?
– How will having a baby affect my family, including my other children?
– Will I be able to raise my child in a healthy, stable, and loving home?
– Do I want to start or add to my family right now?
– Do my partner and I feel good about parenting together?
Parenting is often rewarding, exciting, demanding, challenging, and fun. You will inevitably need to make numerous sacrifices when you’re a parent. Parents get less sleep and have less time to do the things they need and want to do. Having a baby may alter your school or career goals. Raising a child is expensive, and many parents find it challenging to keep up with all their child’s needs.
Raising a child with a partner may bring you closer together. However, having a child can test even the strongest relationships. There is no way to definitively know how having a baby will affect your relationship. Being a single parent is possible, of course, but it is also more difficult than raising a child with a partner.
Terminating the pregnancy is another of your unplanned pregnancy options. Your situation is unique, and you are the only person who can make the best decision for yourself, but there are several reasons women decide to terminate a pregnancy, including, but not limited to:
– Life plans
– Pregnancy complications
– School, career, or life goals
– Sexual assault
– Abusive relationships
– Health concerns
– Already parenting
– Financial concerns
In making a decision regarding abortion, you can ask yourself these questions:
– Would I consider adoption?
– Would having an abortion change my life in a way I do or do not want?
– Do I have any strong personal or spiritual beliefs about abortion?
– Is anyone pressuring me to terminate or not terminate this pregnancy?
– What type of support would I need if I got an abortion? How would I get that support?
– What do I already know about abortions?
– What do I still need to learn about abortions?
Abortions during the first and second trimesters are legal in the United States in some states. Laws concerning abortion are constantly changing. It is imperative that you educate yourself before making a major decision.
The type of abortion you will undergo depends on when you decide to terminate the pregnancy, your health, and your state’s laws regarding abortion.
Another of your unplanned pregnancy options to consider is adoption or having the baby and placing it with another person or family to raise as their own. Adoption is a permanent legal agreement that allows another person or family to parent your child after he or she is born.
There are several different types of adoption. While some expectant mothers choose the more traditional route of using an adoption agency to find a hopeful adoptive family and place a child soon after the birth, there are other options. Kinship adoption is an adoption that is performed within one’s own family. The adoption process will look similar, but essentially a grandparent, sibling, aunt, uncle, or another distant relative will adopt the baby.
There are numerous reasons people decide to place a baby through adoption. A few of the reasons include:
– They do not want to be a single parent.
– They cannot afford to raise a child.
– They want to achieve life goals, such as finish school or advance their career before having a child.
– They were sexually assaulted.
– They are in an unhealthy or abusive relationship.
– They believe it is the best decision they can make for their baby.
– They are already parenting and cannot afford another child.
Here are some questions to ask yourself when you’re considering adoption:
– Do I feel like I can care for a child right now?
– What resources would be available to me as a parent?
– Would a child thrive under my care?
– Am I comfortable having someone else raise my child?
– Do I think my child would be treated well by the adoptive parent or family?
– Do I have the support I need to go through pregnancy, childbirth, and the adoption process?
You can choose to have an open or closed adoption.
Closed adoptions were the norm in the past, but they are rare in the United States now. In a closed adoption, the birth parents and adoptive parents do not know one another and have no contact with one another once the adoption is finalized. Oftentimes, a child will not know who his or her birth parents are before the age of 18. This is an option for biological parents who wish to keep their lives private post-placement. Even in a case of closed adoption, though, an expectant mother or father will choose the parent or parents who the child will be placed with. An adoption agency will help complete this process and provide information on the hopeful adoptive families in your area.
The records in closed adoptions are typically sealed. Depending on your state’s laws, there may be options to open closed adoption records when an adoptee has turned 18.
Open adoptions are increasingly common these days. In open adoptions, birth parents and adoptive parents often meet each other and stay in contact with one another after the adoption is finalized. The degree to which birth parents and adoptive parents interact with one another depends on how each party feels about the situation. Sometimes, letters and photos are exchanged. Other times, birth parents and adoptive parents talk on the phone regularly. Some birth parents and adoptive parents are comfortable with in-person visits and more regular contact.
There are several benefits to open adoptions. Your child will be able to ask you questions about why you made the decision to have them placed for adoption and about their family background. You’ll also be able to provide the adoptive parents with updated medical information as it becomes available to you. This could be life-saving for your child.
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One of the feelings experienced by birth parents when they place their child for adoption is grief. An open adoption helps with this feeling. Knowing that you will receive photos and letter updates, phone calls, and/or visits in the future can help tremendously with the feelings of grief and loss that accompany placing a child.
Making a Decision
Making a decision can be incredibly difficult. Here are some tips you can use to help you make a decision. Remember that there are plenty of free resources to educate you throughout your decision-making process.
Write It Out: Once you find out that you are pregnant, take some time to look at your own thoughts and feelings. It may help to sit in a quiet, peaceful location with a pen and paper and write about what you’re thinking and how you’re feeling.
Another thing you can do is to make a chart for each option, listing the positives and negatives of each choice. Imagine what you and your child’s lives would be like based on the options you are considering.
Educate Yourself: Do your research on all of the options you have. Gathering information from unbiased and nonjudgmental sources can help you make an informed decision.
If you cannot find all the answers you need, write down a list of your questions. Find an unbiased hotline or clinic that can answer your questions.
Take Your Time: Getting an abortion is a time-sensitive and permanent decision. However, if you are considering parenting or adoption, you can take more time to make a decision.
Take the time you need to think about your decision. You may want to say no to some commitments in order to ensure you have enough time to think.
Talk to Someone: You may find it beneficial to talk with someone about your options. If you have a trusted, mature, and wise friend or family member you can talk to, you may want to approach them. Friends and family members, as well-meaning as they are, may try to unintentionally sway you one way or another.
Talking with a therapist might be a good option, especially if you are not ready to disclose or discuss your pregnancy with family members or friends. A therapist can help you explore your thoughts and feelings regarding each of your options. Therapists act as a nonjudgmental and unbiased sounding board. A therapist can also help you find resources during and after your decision-making process.
If you and your partner disagree on what to do regarding your pregnancy, a therapist can help you both explore your thoughts, feelings, and options.
Continuing to see a therapist after you’ve made a decision may also be beneficial. If you decide to terminate the pregnancy or place the baby for adoption, a counselor can help you with the grief and loss you will experience. If you decide to parent, a therapist can help you find resources and deal with the multitude of emotions you’ll experience throughout your pregnancy and after your child’s birth.
Take Care of Yourself: It is important to take care of yourself while you are making a decision regarding your pregnancy. When you find out you are pregnant, make an appointment with your OB/GYN. Your doctor can help you start prenatal care. Even if you have not made a decision yet, taking care of yourself and the baby is important.
You should discuss the specifics of prenatal care with your doctor, but here are some prenatal care tips to get you started:
– Take a prenatal vitamin or multivitamin with 400-800 micrograms (mcg) or 0.4-0.8 milligrams (mg) of folic acid every day. While folic acid is most important in early pregnancy, it is recommended that you take it throughout your entire pregnancy.
– Eat a well-balanced, nutritious diet.
– Avoid toxoplasmosis and listeria by washing fruits and vegetables before eating them. Avoid eating undercooked or uncooked meat or fish.
– Gain a healthy amount of weight. Consult your doctor regarding how much weight you should gain during your pregnancy.
– Do not start or stop any medications or supplements without consulting your doctor first.
– Get enough sleep.
– Try to get two hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each week unless your physician tells you not to. It is best to spread out your workouts throughout the week.
Listen to Yourself: In the end, you are the only person who knows what is best for you. You need to make the decision that’s right for you. While others’ advice may be helpful, you are the one who has the final say in the matter. You have the right to make whatever choice is best for you.
An unplanned pregnancy is life-changing. Making a decision is a difficult and stressful process. Learning your unplanned pregnancy includes talking to unbiased and nonjudgmental people, taking your time, and listening to yourself. Remember that even though you may feel alone, you’re not. Counselors, doctors, and unplanned pregnancy hotlines may all help you in your decision-making process.
Are you considering placing a child for adoption? Not sure what to do next? First, know that you are not alone. Visit Adoption.org or call 1-800-ADOPT-98 to speak to one of our Options Counselors to get compassionate, nonjudgmental support. We are here to assist you in any way we can.