Know Your Options: Unplanned Pregnancy
by Cayla Keiser | published Dec. 11th, 2019
Out of the 6.1 million annual pregnancies in the United States, 45 percent are unintended. This means the pregnancy was either unplanned or mistimed, according to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. For many women, an unplanned pregnancy can be scary.
“When the stick turns [blue] or you get two lines, there’s going to be that moment of panic, like, ‘Oh my god what have I done? What do I do? My future is in jeopardy,'" said Lynn Handley, president of the American Pregnancy Association.
Women are taught about possible ways to prevent pregnancy, including birth control options, using a condom and abstaining from sex altogether. However, despite preventative measures, you can still get pregnant if you choose to have sex — and it's important to know what your options are if you find yourself unexpectedly pregnant.
Talking about unplanned pregnancy has become a politicized issue in today's culture, said Matt Sones, vice president of patient services at CompassCare Pregnancy Services. As medical providers, he continued, it’s their job to help pregnant women see the options they have more clearly, free from societal pressures.
“When our patients come in, it’s not a political issue for them,” Sones said. “One of our little mottos is ‘We inform; you decide.’ We’re here to give you as much information about what’s going on inside of you so that you can make the most informed decision for yourself.”
“When our patients come in, it’s not a political issue for them.”
The first step in making a decision is to determine if you actually are pregnant. 5852323894
Are You Pregnant?
If someone thinks they might be pregnant, they can start by taking a home pregnancy test or going to the Student Health Center (SHC) on campus. The SHC provides urine pregnancy tests to students free of charge, according to Betty Vickery, women’s and sexual health nurse practitioner. Pregnancy tests can also be purchased at most stores, such as Wegmans or Walmart.
“One thing they need to understand about the test is the timing is important. They have to be at least 10 days pregnant for the test to turn positive,” Vickery said. “So if someone’s concerned that a month ago they became pregnant, if I do the test now I can count on its accuracy. If they had sex with someone last weekend, it’s too early for me to tell.”
What Are Your Options?
If the tests are positive and pregnancy is confirmed, it's important to know all the options before deciding how to move forward. They can raise the baby, put the child up for adoption or terminate the pregnancy through an abortion.
Raising the Baby
“The thing they need to consider most is: do they feel that they personally are ready to take on the responsibility of parenting another human being?” Vickery said.
Raising a child is a lifelong commitment with financial, health, personal, relational and other implications. Parenting can be “joyful,
Another option one may consider is putting the baby up for adoption. There are three different types of adoption: open, semi-open and closed.
“If you have an open adoption, that means you want to be available to the child ... you can customize how much visibility, how much participation you want to have in that child’s life,” Handley said. “Semi-open adoption is similar. You don’t have as much contact, but you can be available for health records, medical background, ancestry. With a closed adoption of course, once you’ve given birth, the baby is taken and given to the [adoptive parents].”
The final option one might consider is abortion. About four of every 10 unplanned pregnancies end in abortion, according to Planned Parenthood. There are two kinds of abortion: medical and surgical.
Medical abortions, in which the person takes a series of two medications, are safe up to the first 10 weeks of the pregnancy. The first pill blocks progesterone, which is a hormone needed to sustain a healthy pregnancy. The second pill causes the body to expel the uterine contents through cramping and bleeding.
“Then there’s something called surgical abortion,” Vickery said. “In that case, a suction tube is placed into the uterus and the contents of the lining of the uterus are removed.”
Where Can You Find Support?
“My advice to young women would be: if you find yourself pregnant and questioning what your future looks like, educate yourself,” Handley said. “Get the best advice you can and sit down and take pen to paper — or fingers to keyboard — and write out the different scenarios you can envision based on the information you have.”
"If you find yourself pregnant and questioning what your future looks like, educate yourself."
Dana Godfrey-Brophy, a counselor advocate in the Center for Women and Gender (CWaG), suggested that you talk to someone who you trust, who supports you and will help you make the best decision for you. There are many safe resources on campus to go to — CWaG, Counseling and Psychological Services and the SHC are just a few to name.
“We are happy to talk to students about all of their options, never pushing them one way or another, but letting them know about what options exist out there,” Godfrey-Brophy said. “If you decide to keep the baby, if you decide you want to stay in school — how do we support that? ... How do we get [you] in contact with other resources if [you] choose not to keep the baby? How do we get you that medical treatment or the adoption agency?”
Beyond logistical factors, it's best to always consider personal beliefs and morals regarding pregnancy. Sones said that women often feel pressured into their decision for external reasons.
“As human beings, when we make decisions that are contrary to what we believe or who we think we are, it has significant negative impacts for us in the future,” Sones said. “[Ask yourself], ‘What does my heart say about what’s going on inside me?’”
No matter what decision is made, know there are people who will be supportive.
“I think the big thing for me is just so students know they aren’t alone in the process,” Godfrey-Brophy said. “We never want a student to feel like they have to do this by themselves.”