You had unprotected sex or the condom broke a few weeks ago and now your period is late. Dealing with an unplanned pregnancy can be a stressful time in any woman’s life. But if you’re a teenager, the situation can seem like a catastrophe.
You don’t want to be a parent yet! How do you tell your parents? Where do you go for help? And what will your friends think?! Before you start to freak out, take a deep breath and remember that you are not the first teenager to experience an unwanted pregnancy. Millions of others have gone through (and survived!) the same thing. So, what are the first steps you should take?
What to do in an Emergency
If you just had unprotected sex yesterday and you want to end the pregnancy, then you can take an emergency contraceptive pill (ECP). This is a pill that you get from a doctor or at a walk-in clinic and can help you out in three ways.
First, ECP can stop your body from releasing an egg. If you have already released an egg, then the second way ECP can help you is by preventing that egg from being fertilized. If that egg has been fertilized, then the last way ECP will help you is by stopping the egg from being implanted in your uterus.
However, ECP can only be taken within three days after having unprotected sex and is more effective the sooner you take it. After that, ECP can’t help you. ECP will also not cause an abortion or miscarriage. So, if you’re already pregnant, ECP won’t be able to change that. If you’re not sure what the signs of pregnancy are, go to signs and symptoms.
First, take a pregnancy test. To find out more about pregnancy tests, read our article on home tests. If you are sure that you’re pregnant, then you have a few options open to you. You could keep the baby and be a parent. You could continue the pregnancy and give the baby up for adoption. You could terminate the pregnancy by having an abortion. Or, if you really can’t decide, then you can place your baby into foster care once she or he is born to think more about keeping the baby or placing it up for adoption. But what do these choices really mean?
Becoming a Mommy
If you decide that you want to keep the baby, then you’ll have to be prepared to be a parent. Being a parent is a full-time job and it doesn’t matter if you’re an adult or a teenager - it’s hard work. But that doesn’t mean you can’t do it.
If you are thinking about being a parent, be realistic about it. Being a parent can be very rewarding and special. But it takes a lot of time (with no vacation for about- oh, 20 years or so), a lot of money, a lot of help, and a lot of patience. To help decide if this is the right choice for you, here are some questions you should ask yourself:
- How will I support myself and my child?
- How much support can I expect from my family and friends?
- Am I willing to put off school to raise a child?
- Are there alternative schools that are especially for teen mothers that I could attend?
- Is this really the right time for me to be a parent?
Getting Another Mom
Adoption is an option that many pregnant teens take advantage of. This choice means that you carry your baby to term and deliver it. Once the baby is born, she or he will be given to another couple who will then raise the baby as their child. While there are thousands of successful adoptions every year, some women find it very hard to be permanently separated from their child.
Open Adoptions and Closed Adoptions
If you decide to put your baby up for adoption, you could have an open or closed adoption. An open adoption is when you get to choose the parents who will be raising your baby. One benefit of this is that you can form a relationship with your baby’s new parents and possibly even keep in contact as your baby grows.
A closed adoption is when everything is kept private. There are also different ways to go about the adoption. You could choose to use an agency. This is usually used in closed adoptions and means that they will be the ones responsible for all the legal matters and finding the new parents.
If you want to have an open adoption, then you can either use an agency or go through independent means. An independent adoption is when you go through a doctor, lawyer or someone else that knows a couple that wants to adopt. If you decide to do an independent adoption, you should consider getting a lawyer to make sure you’re protected. However, using an agency may be easier and many agencies nowadays encourage parents to do an open adoption.
Regardless of what type of adoption you have, be sure to read thoroughly any contracts that you are suppose to sign. If you have a lawyer, get her to look over the contract before you sign.
Adoption laws vary from country to country, state to state, province to province. If you’re considering this choice, be sure to do some research about the laws regarding adoption where you live.
A Tough Choice
Abortion is a very sensitive issue for many people and a very difficult decision to make for many women. An abortion means terminating your pregnancy. Most abortions happen before the 12-week mark in a pregnancy. Having an abortion early in your pregnancy is completely safe as long as you go to a licensed clinic. Never try to induce an abortion on your own; there have been too many young women killed because they did not go to a licensed doctor.
In the United States, abortion laws vary from state to state. Some require you to have parental permission while others don’t. Money is another factor to consider. Some abortion clinics will want a payment up front while others will let you work out a payment plan or use a credit card. In some cases, Medicaid will cover the cost of the abortion. You will need to do some research to find out just what the laws are in your state.
In Canada, abortions performed in hospitals are covered by provincial health care. Women who are living in British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, or Newfoundland, and have an abortion at a free-standing abortion clinic will also not have to pay. Everywhere else you will have to cover at least some part of the cost at a free-standing abortion clinic. If you live in Prince Edward Island, you will have to go out of province to get an abortion, as there are no hospitals or clinics that currently offer this service. Some hospitals require parental consent depending on your age, but this varies from place to place.
Abortion is not the right choice for everyone. Some women do regret their decision to have an abortion because of their personal beliefs. If you are considering having an abortion, make sure nobody is pressuring you to get one. This is your decision to make, no one else’s. Also, be aware of your own personal and religious beliefs. If an abortion goes against them, then maybe this is not the right choice for you.
Still Not Sure?
Your due date is just around the corner and you’re still not sure whether or not you want to raise the baby yourself. But it seems too late to do anything else now. Before you start to panic, look into foster care. This option will allow you to take some more time to make a decision. You can visit your child while they are in foster care and you can even decide how long you want your child to stay there. However, foster care is not a permanent solution. Laws surrounding foster care vary depending on where you live, so you will need to do some research on whether or not this option is actually available to you.
Regardless of your final decision, you shouldn’t rush yourself into making a choice that you will regret later. However, the sooner you are able to make a decision, the sooner you can start receiving prenatal care (if you have decided to continue the pregnancy).
Talking About It
You might find it difficult to make a decision on your own. Is there someone you trust to talk to about this? Your parents would be the best choice, but not every girl feels that she can go to them right away. A friend, relative, teacher, or your health care provider are all good choices. You could also talk with a sexual health counselor who is trained to deal with just this sort of situation.
But be wary of where you go. There are a number of centers and hotlines that advertise they deal specifically with “crisis pregnancy.” While they do want to help you, they might also be giving you biased information or may not be informing you of all the choices actually available to you.
Some will even use scare and pressure tactics to force you into making the decision they want you to make. Remember, only you know what is the right choice for you. If there is a Planned Parenthood clinic nearby, you can book yourself an appointment with a trained counselor who will give you unbiased, unpressured information and answer any questions you may have. They can also provide you with phone numbers for adoption agencies and abortion clinics.
Revision date: June 11, 2011
Last revised: by Sebastian Scheller, MD, ScD