ARTICLES, HEALTHY LIVING & WELL BEING. EATING DISORDERS
We’re Pregnant. Now What?
You probably didn’t plan it, but here you are: Finding yourself with a baby on the way.
As a teenager, what’s the best thing you can do?
The first thing you need to do is find an adult to talk to. Ideally, this will be one of your parents, but if you absolutely can’t face them right now, think of someone else. This might be a trusted teacher or guidance counsellor at school, your doctor, or your religious advisor. Even the “cool” parent of a friend might be able to help. If there is no one in your life you feel you can trust, try your nearest walk-in medical clinic or hospital emergency room, or look for a local office of the Canada Prenatal Nutrition Program or Planned Parenthood.
The important thing is to tell someone who is in a position to help you.
Keep in mind that your parents (or legal guardians) will probably need to be told at some point, and it is definitely best if they learn the news from you. Depending on your age, where you live, and your circumstances, the person you confide in may have a legal responsibility to talk to your parents or Youth Protection Services, or that person may simply feel that it is in your best interest to do so. This doesn’t mean the person is betraying you. On the contrary, he or she is doing what is necessary to keep you healthy and safe.
Visiting a Doctor
If you’re pregnant, you need a medical check-up. The visit will include a standard medical examination, possibly with an ultrasound to see the baby. A doctor or nurse will also probably ask a lot of questions, including:
- How did you get pregnant (e.g., were you forced to have sex; did you use birth control)?
- How is your relationship with your partner?
- Do your parents know you are pregnant?
- Do you have an idea of what you would like to do?
- Are you being pressured by your partner/parents/relatives?
- Are there problems in your relationship with your parents?
- What is your home life like?
- Are you getting enough to eat?
- Do you have a safe place to sleep?
If you haven’t told your parents about your pregnancy, your doctor will likely encourage you to, depending on your particular situation. If you can’t face them alone, he or she might suggest that you bring your parents into the office to tell them there, where a professional can help them absorb the news.
You Have Options
The doctor or nurse will then explore your options with you in detail. Yes, options. You may feel pretty stuck right now, but you do have them. They include keeping the baby, adopting the baby, or (depending on how far along you are) having an abortion. Within these options are more options. For instance, you may decide to keep your baby but hand over the main responsibility of caring for it to a close relative or opt for “open” adoption in which you get to meet and even choose your baby’s parents.
Even if you’ve already made a clear decision about how you want to handle this pregnancy, your doctor will likely ask you to sleep on it for at least a couple more days. “It’s always a good idea to imagine for a few days that you’ve had an abortion or that you have a child,” says Dr. Frappier. “What will your life be like? How do you feel?”
If you’re not sure what you want to do or if you and your partner cannot agree, your doctor can help you decide or refer you to another professional, such as a social worker, who can help.
For Parents: Why My Kid?
Learning that your teenager is pregnant or got someone else pregnant can be quite a shock. Remember that even the best-behaved teen with the most loving and nurturing parents can sometimes make mistakes. Unfortunately, some mistakes carry larger consequences than others.
Before you react, take a deep breath. If you keep your teen on your side, you can work this out together. Alienating your child will only make matters worse. Believe me, any lessons that needed to be learned from this experience were fully absorbed the minute that pregnancy test read “positive”. Another lecture from you probably won’t help.
Be aware that your child needs your help. No matter how angry or scared you are, you need to step up and be there for your child. Pregnant teens are at increased risk for health problems, including anemia, high blood pressure, depression, and pregnancy complications. A pregnant teen is also less likely to finish school, which will have an impact on her ability to support herself and her family for the rest of her life. Help and support from her family and community now can make all the difference, greatly increasing both her and her unborn child’s chances of having a happy and successful life.
Advice from a Doctor
Here are some tips about how to handle those first few days after learning the news:
- Get upset, then get supportive: It’s normal to be angry, sad, or afraid at first but it’s important to get beyond those feelings and be supportive.
- Keep her in the loop: “You may consider your daughter to still be a child, but she has to be involved in decisions related to the pregnancy,” says Dr. Frappier. “If you go against her decision, it can do more harm than good”.
- Get help: Look into professional resources to find out what the options are in your area as well as what support you can get, both emotional and economic. “Sometimes it’s good to take the problem outside [the home] so you can reflect on it differently,” says Frappier.
- Take some time: The choices you and your teen make about this pregnancy will be with you for the rest of your lives, so take some time to reflect on them before acting.
- Let it sink in: Your teen may not agree with your plan of action right away. Don’t let your frustration get the better of you. Explain your feelings calmly and clearly, and give your teen a chance to do the same. Then let everyone take a few days for things to sink in.
- Reach out: You might be surprised just how much friends and family are willing and able to help.
List of Resources for Pregnant Teens
- School: your school may have someone on hand, such as a guidance counsellor or nurse, to talk to or provide advice on where to get support.
- Local clinic/hospital: Medical clinics and hospitals will, of course, provide medical care for a pregnant teen. But many also offer support services or information on how to obtain such services.
- The Canada Prenatal Nutrition Program (CPNP) supports local programs aimed at helping pregnant teens.
- The Canadian Federation for Sexual Health offers information on pregnancy, contraception, and how to find a counsellor.
- Planned Parenthood has local centres all over Canada that offer advice on pregnancy and contraception.
Dryburgh, H. Teen Pregnancy. Health Reports. Vol. 12 (1). Statistics Canada, Catalogue 82-003. http://www.statcan.gc.ca/kits-trousses/preg-gross/preg-gross-eng.htm Accessed June 7, 2010.
Gender and Health Collaborative Curriculum. Gender and Poverty: Poverty and Teen Pregnancy. Prepared for the Ontario Women’s Health Council. http://www.genderandhealth.ca/en/modules/poverty/poverty-teen-pregnancy-01.jsp Accessed June 7, 2010.
Written by Alison Palkhivala