Seldom do we go through life without having to make some difficult
choices. It's never easy having to make unexpected decisions about
health issues, and having to make decisions about an unplanned pregnancy
is certainly no exception. To learn you're pregnant when you didn't
plan to become pregnant can leave you feeling confused, anxious,
fearful, proud, angry, happy, and depressed. For many women, an
unplanned pregnancy signals the first time they have had to make
a health-related decision and one closely tied to the course of
their life. What you choose now may raise question about your future
goals, your values, and your current relationship.
All the more reason to actively make this decision rather than "let
What are my options?
If you're facing an unplanned or crisis pregnancy, you have three
- you can continue the pregnancy and raise your child (either
on your own or with your partner)
- you can continue the pregnancy and place your child up for
- you can terminate the pregnancy by having an abortion.
Before reaching a decision, you need to explore each of these options.
On a piece of paper, write down how you feel about each option:
try to imagine possible outcomes as well as the practical and
emotional impact each option may have on you—both in the
short term and in the long term. Try to be as specific and realistic
as you can.
Now, think about what your ideal situation looks like—both
in terms of being pregnant and in terms of parenting a child.
When would you like to become a mother? Where would you be living?
What role would your partner have? What would you be like? What
role would your family take?
Once you've considered these questions, describe your situation as
it actually is at this time. Are there significant differences between
what is and your ideal situation? Recognizing that ideal situations
rarely play out, what are the minimum requirements you would need to
satisfy in order to carry through with this pregnancy and parent your
Looking back to a year ago, before you became pregnant. Think of
what was important to you then. What were your goals and dreams at
that time? What were your views on unplanned pregnancy? How did you
feel about each of the options?
Consider your life now. What are your goals and dreams now? Have
they changed? What's important to you? What are you involved with
now? Have your views changed with respect to unplanned pregnancy?
Imagine yourself a year from now. What are your biggest fears
surrounding each option? What's the best outcome for each option?
Realistically, how will each option impact your life?
By now, it should be obvious: each option carries its own set of
pros and cons. You need complete and accurate information before
making the choice that's best for you.
When considering these options, you may reflect on many aspects
of your life, including:
- your spiritual, cultural, religious, and cultural beliefs
and those of others in your life
- your relationship with your family, friends, and partner
- your financial and social realities
- your living conditions and life circumstances
- your feelings about parenting and about becoming a mother
- possible reactions to your decision
Ultimately, your decision will be arrived at based on what's best
at this time. At another time in your life, your decision may be
different. Bear in mind that because each woman is different, the
time and effort needed to reach a decision will be different as
well. It's natural to have a variety of emotional reactions to an
unplanned pregnancy, particularly when weighing the pros and cons.
This is an intensely personal decision: with it comes reassurance
as well as stress. Since you are the person who will live with this
decision, be sure you're making it for yourself. Dealing effectively
with your feelings is a key part of making a decision you can live
Know whom to talk to
You may want to seek advice when choosing whether to continue an
unplanned pregnancy. This is natural. Because each of us has our
own need for privacy and for emotional, spiritual, economic, and
physical support, women facing an unplanned pregnancy may not all
choose to talk to the same person or people. For instance, some
women may feel comfortable talking only to health providers while
others may wish to include a friend, family member,
partner, or member of the clergy.
Whomever you choose, be cautious when involving others in your
decision. Be sure to ask whether they have a particular viewpoint—anti-abortion/pro
life, pro choice, anti-adoption, or anti-parenting. It's important
that you feel free to make your own decision. You should never
feel coerced or forced to make a decision that is not your own:
this decision must be based on your own choice and not someone
else's. If you feel manipulated or intimidated, you may want to
look for someone else to talk to. An unbiased counselor, available
through your local Planned Parenthood or public health clinic,
can guide you through the decision-making process. (Refer to Choosing
a counseling center for more information and useful hints.)
When looking for people to help you with the decision-making
process, consider people who are:
- knowledgeable and able to provide accurate information and
- able to provide unconditional support, no matter what your
- respectful of your privacy and your well-being
I've made a decision!
If you choose to continue your pregnancy, you'll need to
consider finding a doctor or midwife, and you'll also need to
learn how to maintain your health throughout your pregnancy.
You'll also need to choose where and how the delivery will take
If you're considering adoption,
you'll need to make an adoption plan for your child. It may
help you to find a doctor who understands your needs and who
can help you devise an adoption plan and support you through
the adoption process.
Your adoption plan will involve contacting various adoption
agencies to learn how they operate and how they will find a
suitable family for your baby.
You will need to decide whether to place your baby up for
public or private adoption. Public adoptions are set up by
organizations such as Family and Children's Services; private
adoptions are planned by lawyers or social workers. Bear in
mind, however, that not every lawyer or social worker can
arrange an adoption. People and agencies dealing with adoption
must be licensed.
If a public adoption is your preferred choice, you can call
a placement organization to speak with a pregnancy counsellor
or social worker. This individual will help you by discussing
your pregnancy options, supporting your decision, and providing
information about the adoption process. In other words, your
social worker is your advocate; he or she advocates for birth
parents' choices and will help you in selecting adoptive parents
for your baby. The final decision, however, is always yours.
In Canada, public adoptions are free and confidential.
A private adoption, on the other hand, is an arrangement
between the birth parents and potential adoptive parents. This
arrangement is facilitated by licensed lawyer or social worker.
In Canada, all licensed lawyers and social workers working in
private adoptions must first be approved by the Ministry in
their province. This helps ensure that private adoptions are
as safe as public adoptions: the provincial Ministry gives
final approval to all private adoptions. Private adoptions must
adhere to specific guidelines, and all professionals are required to
abide by specific requirements and codes of conduct.
When you've decided to place your baby for adoption, you'll look
at a number of profiles of people—usually couples, but not
always—interested in adopting a child. Once you've chosen
a few profiles you're comfortable with, the potential adoptive
parents are given a profile of your child. As the birth parents,
you and your partner are entitled to non-identifying information
about the potential adoptive family. If what you as birth parents
are looking for is compatible with what the adoptive parent(s)
would like, the terms of the adoption are discussed.
However, a home study must be conducted before a family can
adopt a child. A home study consists of a series of interviews
between an approved social worker and the potential adoptive
family. Through these interviews, the social worker
investigates potential families' income, overall health, and
emotional stability. These investigations are done in an
effort to ensure the child being placed for adoption will
have a good home and a loving environment in which to grow up.
As birth parents, you and your partner will be required to
provide the adoptive parents with a medical and social history.
The medical history helps the adoptive family identify any
possible health conditions your baby may have inherited. The
social history may include a letter to your baby explaining
why you (and your partner) as the birth parent(s) chose to
make an adoption plan.
When considering an abortion, you'll
need to know which procedures are available in your community
and whether they are available at a hospital, clinic, or doctor's
office. In Canada, abortion has been legal since 1969 and in 1988,
it was removed from the Criminal Code altogether. However, not
all procedures are available—or legal—in all countries.
You may have to travel to have some or all procedures. The appropriate
procedure for an abortion is determined by:
- the number of weeks since your last menstrual period
- your overall health
- the procedures available
- your preferences, beliefs, and values
Most abortion providers can refer you to counseling services
to assist you in making the best decision about your unplanned
pregnancy. In Canada, abortions are generally available up to
20 weeks, and you do not need to provide a reason for your decision.
What's more, Canadian hospitals, clinics, and health insurance
plans are required to respect the confidentiality of women—including
teenagers—who have abortions and to keep their names secret.
In Canada, abortions performed in hospitals are free if you are
covered by provincial health insurance. Abortions are also free at
clinics in British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, and Newfoundland. At
abortion clinics in other provinces, you must incur some of the cost.
In addition, free-standing abortion clinics in Canada do not require
parental consent for an abortion if you are under 18, if it's clear
you understand what you are doing. Some hospitals, on the other hand,
do require parental consent for any type of surgery performed on a
minor. The age when parental consent is required varies from one
province to another: you can learn about the rules concerning parental
consent at your local public health clinic.