If you are facing an unplanned or unwanted pregnancy, this may be a stressful time where you will need to make some difficult decisions. It is good to remember that many women face an unplanned pregnancy and that you are not alone. It is important to become well informed about the options that are available to you and to discuss these with a trusted support person.
Not all women feel the need to seek advice from a counsellor or health professional to help them make their decision, however there are support services and information available to help you make the right decision for you should you need or want them. The advice you receive should be non-directive, non-judgmental and respectful.
For support services in the ACT go to: Unplanned or Unwanted Pregnancy Support Services
Dealing with an unplanned pregnancy
Experiencing an unplanned pregnancy can be a very stressful and confusing time. Shock is a common experience when you first realise that you are pregnant, even if it was already suspected. You might find that you feel unable to think clearly and may experience a lot of mixed emotions. This feeling of shock may continue for some days after you first find out.
Feelings of uncertainty and ambivalence are also very common, and this can even occur when a pregnancy has been planned. An unplanned pregnancy can be particularly difficult if you are feeling uncertain about what decision you will make about the pregnancy, or if your thoughts and feelings about what you want to do differ from that of your partner, or the man involved in the pregnancy.
Emotions generally can be quite intense during pregnancy. This is thought to be due to the effect of pregnancy hormones. You may experience mood swings and may become upset more easily. This can make dealing with an unplanned pregnancy and making a very important decision like this more challenging.
Self-care: It’s very important to remember to look after yourself during a difficult and stressful time. Take time out from focussing on the decision. Nurture yourself by taking time to relax, to rest and to do some of the things that you enjoy and that nourish you, such as taking a bath, going for a long walk, having a massage or a facial, going to a movie, or catching up with close friends. Practising self-compassion, meaning kindness towards yourself, is also very important.
Talking to someone close who you trust and who you know will support you in whatever decision you might make can also be very helpful.
If you are feeling particularly distressed and don’t have anyone that you can talk to or who you can talk to it’s important that you seek help: see your GP, make an appointment with a known psychologist if you have one, make an appointment to see an unplanned pregnancy counsellor (see details below) or call Lifeline on 13 11 14. If you are concerned about domestic violence and staying safe, call the Domestic Violence Crisis Service on 6280 0900 if you are in the ACT, or call the Domestic Violence Line on 1800 656 463 if you are in NSW.
Making a decision about an unplanned pregnancy
For some women having to make a decision about whether to continue a pregnancy or not can be relatively straightforward. For others it may be a very difficult decision depending on their individual circumstances.
Most women who are considering their options in relation to an unplanned pregnancy consider many factors, including:
- The state and stability of the relationship with their partner, or the man involved.
- The level of support they may have from family or friends.
- Whether or not they feel ready to take on a parenting role.
- The needs of children they may already have.
- Career, study, housing, and financial considerations.
- Their life plans and goals.
- Their state of physical and emotional health.
- Their beliefs and values.
Unless you are completely clear about what you are going to do it is usually advisable to take time to make a decision if possible. Remember however that this is a time sensitive decision and you may need to make a decision relatively quickly if your pregnancy is more advanced.
Consider the different options and factors impacting on your decision, and if you are in a relationship talk it through with your partner.
If you find that it is just too difficult and you are unable to make a decision, or you would like to talk it through with somebody to clarify your thoughts and feelings, counselling may be helpful for you.
Making a decision as a couple
While the decision to continue a pregnancy is essentially your decision as the woman, it is a decision that will inevitably affect you as a couple. Talking about an unplanned pregnancy as a couple can be difficult.
Before you do this it might want to think about your own feelings about the pregnancy first so you have some clarity first. It may also be helpful to think about what you want before talking to your partner.
You might want to involve your partner in the decision; or just tell them about the decision that you have made; or just make time to listen to each other’s views even if you feel they will not support your decision.
When you do talk about it as a couple, make sure that you allow focused time to do this, and agree to taking turns to fully and respectfully listen to each other so you both feel heard.
For more information about making a decision as a couple see https://www.childrenbychoice.org.au/foryou/decisionmakingasacouple
Unplanned pregnancy counselling
Counselling is really an umbrella term, and can include advice, information, support, education and/or therapy. Counselling can offer a valuable and much-needed resource when making a decision about a pregnancy. Some women may not feel a need for it, while others can find it very helpful.
Counselling can be whatever you need it to be. If you feel you need support with decision making, feel you have already made a decision and just need to talk it through, or simply need someone else to talk to counselling can be helpful.
Many women feel uncomfortable or unable to talk with friends and relatives about an unplanned or unwanted pregnancy. In this situation counselling can provide an opportunity to work through your individual situation and your thoughts and feelings in a supportive environment. Counsellors working in a pro-choice setting can also provide accurate unbiased information which may assist you in making the decision which is right for you at this time in your life.
A word of caution
It is important that the counselling you access is pro-choice, non-judgmental and non-directive. Some organisations offering unplanned pregnancy support or counselling may misrepresent their service when advertising or on their websites. Always check that any support or counselling service is a genuine pro-choice, non-directive service. One way of checking is to ask if they will give you information about abortion services if needed. A non-directive service will always do this.
Unplanned pregnancy counselling in the ACT region
Sexual Health and Family Planning ACT (SHFPACT) provides professional, unbiased, non-directive, respectful and confidential counselling for women who are making a decision whether or not to continue a pregnancy, or who are experiencing an unplanned pregnancy.
This is a free service, and the only free non-directive, face to face unplanned pregnancy counselling service in the ACT. The counselling service is staffed by experienced nurse counsellors. They are also able to refer you to external counsellors should you need more complex counselling or if you don’t feel you need counselling but would like information about abortion or pregnancy care and birth options the nurse counsellors can provide this too.
To make an appointment see SHFPACT or call them on 02 6247 3077.