According to the National Library of Medicine, each year over 3 million unplanned pregnancies occur in the United States. For many women, an unintended pregnancy is a source of joy—imagine trying for a baby with your partner for years only to be suddenly surprised by conception.
On the other hand, for many more women, an unplanned baby feels overwhelming, burdensome, and incredibly scary. Millions of Americans live under the poverty line, have strained family relationships, or struggle to get adequate healthcare. Those factors can make conception an enormous challenge for families, but especially for women, on whom most of the emotional burden often falls.
If you find yourself looking down at a positive pregnancy test and you don’t have a strong support system of family and friends around you, here are some things you can consider to figure out what to do next and ensure you’re well taken care of!
1. Acknowledge Your Emotions
Firstly, take some time to breathe. If you’re feeling fear, guilt, or frustration after learning about an unplanned pregnancy, know that you’re not alone in those emotions. Those are completely normal things to feel and you may also feel a sense of guilt for feeling those emotions. Find some time and space to feel it all—let it out completely. It can be stifling and unhealthy to stuff or bottle your emotions, especially the harder ones. It can result in future emotional outbursts, a foggy brain, and difficulty making logical decisions.
Go for a walk, talk to someone you trust, journal, or just pray. It’s important that you pause to experience the weight of your feelings before trying to make any future decisions pertaining to an unplanned pregnancy.
2. Verify The Pregnancy
Over-the-counter pregnancy tests are not always accurate. Even if you’ve taken multiple tests, you may still end up with a false positive due to a recent miscarriage, chemical pregnancy, or even some medications you’re taking. Before taking any next steps, ensure that your pregnancy is true by going to a local healthcare facility to take a blood-drawn pregnancy test or ultrasound. These will help confirm that you are pregnant and help your medical provider determine the viability of your pregnancy.
3. Talk With An Options Counselor
Your healthcare and your decisions are personal to you. However, an unplanned pregnancy can often be accompanied by a sense of confusion and doubts. Pregnancy clinics typically offer free options counseling; that way, you can talk to a professional about your options and they can give you educational information to help you make the right choice for you. This is an incredibly critical resource for women without the friend and family support to help them make the right decision at home. An options counselor can’t replace the familial closeness of a support system, but can give you the judgment-free advice and care that you need in a difficult time.
4. Connect With Free Mental Health Care
In the face of an unintended pregnancy, there are so many options. Your options counselor can help guide you to make your open decision, but once that decision is made, your life is going to change. Whether you keep the baby, put the baby up for adoption, or choose one of the many other routes, your life will feel drastically different and change is hard to manage.
We recommend finding a counselor or therapist to help you cope with new challenges and tough emotions. There are low-cost and free counseling assistance available in many cities and some therapy is covered by insurance providers. Even though your counselor will never substitute for loyal friends, it's important to have someone to talk to about your concerns and stresses. The Source offers free licensed professional counseling - if you are close to one of our clinics, we can get you the mental healthcare you need.
5. Join Local Parent Groups
Parents need other parents. If you keep and decide to raise your baby, you’ll need support. If you don’t have a strong friend and family network, it’s time to find one. There are countless parent groups and free Facebook groups where parents offer advice, sell baby items, and help each other. It’s important to find a community of people who can be there for you when you’re tired and frustrated, when you need a freshly-cooked meal, and when you need time away from your baby to take a quick walk. Find those local groups and give them a shot—not every parent group will be a good fit, but there will likely be one that you can fit into well.
6. Sign Up For Public Assistance
One of the upsides of having a strong support system is having access to more resources. Friends and family can offer time, advice, and physical help, but if you’re mostly on your own, you may not be able to afford many of the things a baby or new parent needs.
Work with a local client advocate or case manager to sign up for subsidized health care for you and your little one and other help such as meals and dental care.
If you’re staring down at a positive pregnancy test and don’t have the support you need, contact us at The Source. We have professional counselors, free baby supplies, ultrasounds, well woman exams, and options counseling all at no or low cost to support you and your new baby. Click the image below to book a free appointment today.