Pregnant and Thinking About Adoption: Understanding Adoption

This information was taken directly from Child Welfare Information Gateway

Are you pregnant and thinking about placing your baby for adoption? Being well-informed may help you feel better about whatever decision you make—whether it is to place your child for adoption or to parent your child yourself. This factsheet provides information about adoption, presents questions to consider, and points to resources that may help you in exploring your options. Others who are affected by adoption decisions, such as expectant fathers and other relatives, also may find this factsheet useful for answering their questions.

Topics included:

Understanding Adoption (below)

Gathering Information and Exploring Your Options

Making the Adoption Decision: Questions to Ask Yourself

Selecting an Agency or Independent Adoption

Selecting Adoptive Parents

Staying in Touch With Your Child After Adoption

Taking Care of Yourself

Resources for More Information

Understanding Adoption

Adoption is a process—with legal, social, and emotional aspects—in which children who will not be raised by their birth parents become permanent legal members of another family. When it comes to adoption, there is no one right decision for everyone. Understanding adoption—including why others choose adoption or not and its long-term impact—may help you figure out what’s right for you and your child.

Why do some expectant parents choose to place their baby for adoption? Everyone’s situation is different, but many women (and their partners) choose adoption because they do not feel ready or able to raise a child. They often believe that the baby will have a better life in an adoptive home with parents who are ready to welcome and care for a child. As such, these mothers typically feel that they are putting their baby’s best interests ahead of their own. Other factors that sometimes play a part in parents’ decisions to place their children for adoption include money problems, personal goals, and family attitudes.

Why do some expectant parents choose to raise their baby rather than place the baby for adoption? Women experiencing an unplanned pregnancy (and their partners) who consider adoption but decide to raise their child themselves may do so because they conclude that they have the commitment and support necessary to raise a child. They may feel that maintaining their connection with their child and preventing a profound loss for themselves and their child outweigh any possible advantages of adoption. Some birth parents who were unsure before their child’s birth find they do feel ready to be a parent after they’ve held and connected with their baby.

What is the impact of the adoption decision? Adoption is more than a one-time legal event; adoption is a lifelong process with long-term impact for everyone involved (your child, you and your family members, the birth father and his relatives, and the adoptive family). Once an adoption is legally finalized, it is permanent, and it will change your relationship with your child forever. In the eyes of the law, your child is no longer related to you. The adoptive parents will raise your child and have full legal rights and responsibilities as the child’s parents. While experiences differ, many birth parents who place their child for adoption experience feelings of loss, grief, and guilt. For some, it is a traumatic experience. These feelings may persist many years after the adoption and may negatively affect birth parents’ later lives and relationships. (Read more at

Keep in mind: While birth parents and children who have been adopted often struggle with identity issues and lifelong feelings of loss and grief, many will learn how to work through these emotions, often with the help of counseling.

If I choose adoption, will I know what happens to my child? Placing a child for adoption does not mean necessarily that you won’t have any future contact with your child. In past generations, many adoptions were surrounded in secrecy, and communication between birth parents and their children was discouraged. Today, most infant adoptions have some degree of openness in which birth parents have some contact with adoptive parents and their children who have been adopted. (Open adoption is discussed further here.)

When do I have to make my decision? Most State laws require that the final decision to place a child for adoption be made after the baby is born.1 Think of it as making the adoption decision twice—once while you are pregnant and again after giving birth. After consideration of your options, you may prepare for adoption by selecting a licensed adoption agency or adoption lawyer (see Selecting an Agency or Independent Adoption section) and selecting adoptive parents (or parent) (see Selecting Adoptive Parents section.) Nevertheless, the final and legal decision is made by you (or you and the father) after the child’s birth.

Keep in mind: It’s hard to know exactly how you’ll feel after the birth of your baby. You should not sign papers that make the adoption final until you are sure of your decision. Until the final papers are signed, you have parental rights to make decisions regarding your child.

Continue to Pregnant and Thinking About Adoption: Gathering Information and Exploring Your Options

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Child Welfare Information Gateway. (2014). Are you pregnant and thinking about adoption? Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Children’s Bureau.


1 For more information on your State’s laws and required waiting periods, talk to an adoption lawyer or adoption agency representative. See also Consent to Adoption at