Help and advice if you're pregnant and not sure what you want to do.
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If you think you could be pregnant you should do a pregnancy test as soon as possible.
You can do a pregnancy test from the first day of a missed period. If you do a test before this time the level of pregnancy hormone, human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG), may be too low to show up on the test and you may get a negative result even though you are pregnant. If you don’t know when your next period is due, the earliest time to do a test is three weeks (21 days) after unprotected sex.
You can buy a pregnancy test from a pharmacy to do yourself, or you can ask for a test to be done at:
For details on how to find one of these services see How to get help with your sexual health.
If the pregnancy test is positive, this means you are pregnant. All tests, including tests you do yourself, are very reliable.
It’s normal to feel a range of different emotions when you find out you are pregnant. You may feel some, all or none of the following:
Whatever you feel, you now need to think about what to do. It is important to take time to make the decision that’s right for you, but it’s also important not to delay making your decision.
Don’t let anyone else pressure you into doing something you don’t want to do. The decision is yours. For some women it can be very difficult working out what to do, but there is support available to help you think through all your options.
You can choose to:
Talking to people you trust, and getting accurate information about all your options, can help you make up your mind. You may want to talk to your partner, family or friends, or you may feel more comfortable speaking to someone who isn’t so close to you. The following services can talk confidentially with you, free of charge, about how you feel about the pregnancy and what options you have:
If you are faced with an unplanned pregnancy and you live in Northern Ireland, FPA in Northern Ireland can offer:
Call FPA in Northern Ireland on 0845 122 8687 to find out more.
Wherever you live, for a fee, you can discuss your options with organisations such as Marie Stopes (helpline: 0845 300 8090, www.mariestopes.org.uk) and bpas (helpline: 08457 30 40 30, www.bpas.org). There is useful information on their websites which can help you explore your feelings, including how you feel about having a baby or having an abortion.
Young people under 25 can get support, information and advice about all options, including abortion, from the Brook helpline on 0808 802 1234.
It is essential that you are given accurate information and time to explore how you feel so that you can make the decision that is right for you. Be aware that some organisations may not offer unbiased pregnancy counselling or advice and may lead women into making the wrong choice for them.
When you’re making your decision, it may be helpful to consider the following things:
Your life now. What is most important to you in your life at the moment? This might involve many things, such as family, friends, work and education.
Your future. What are your hopes and aims for the future? You can think about all aspects of your life.
How would these things be affected if you decide to:
Another way of thinking about your situation is to consider how the statements below make you feel:
Whatever you decide it needs to be right for you. The rest of this booklet gives you some basic information about continuing with the pregnancy, abortion and adoption. This information may also help you make a decision.
This section tells you about where to go for help and advice if you decide you want to continue with the pregnancy.
If you decide to continue with the pregnancy you need to start your antenatal care (care during pregnancy), whether you are planning to keep the baby or to have it adopted.
To start your antenatal care you can visit your general practice, or register with one. Or you may be able to go directly to a midwife at your nearest maternity unit. To find your nearest maternity unit see www.birthchoiceuk.com or call NHS Direct. See How to get help with your sexual health.
As part of your antenatal care, the doctor or midwife can talk to you about:
If you have a medical condition, such as epilepsy or diabetes, talk to your doctor or midwife as soon as possible because you may need special care. If you are taking medication, it is important that you continue to take this and seek advice from a doctor or nurse as soon as possible.
Other organisations that can offer help and information during and after your pregnancy include:
If you need to register with a general practice you can get details of your nearest practice from NHS Direct in England and Wales, NHS 24 in Scotland and your local health and social care trust in Northern Ireland. See How to get help with your sexual health.
You may be worried that you won’t be able to cope with looking after a baby. Knowing what help might be available may help you make a decision about your pregnancy. Below are some of the ways you may be able to get help.
Legal abortion is a safe way of ending a pregnancy. This is a decision you may make because you do not want to be pregnant and have a baby at this time.
Abortion is legal in the UK regardless of your age. How easy it is to arrange an abortion can vary throughout the UK, and it can be very difficult to obtain an abortion in Northern Ireland.
It is important not to delay making your decision. Legal abortion is safer and easier the earlier it is done in pregnancy. The majority of abortions are carried out before 13 weeks of pregnancy, and most of the rest are carried out before 20 weeks. Abortion after 24 weeks of pregnancy is not common, but is legal in certain circumstances (for example, if it is less likely to cause harm to a woman's physical or mental health than continuing with the pregnancy or there is a substantial risk of physical or mental disability if the baby was born).
It is important to get advice as soon as possible, because it can take up to a month before the abortion is carried out. You may be able to have an abortion sooner if you pay for it. There is no difference in the quality of care you should receive if you choose to pay for an abortion privately or go through the NHS.
Any woman who has an abortion, whatever age she is, has a right for that information to remain confidential. This means that information cannot be shared with anyone else without your agreement. If you have any worries about confidentiality discuss this with the doctor or nurse you speak to about your abortion.
All information, advice and services are confidential, but healthcare professionals are obliged, with your knowledge, to involve social services if they suspect you, or another person, to be at significant risk of harm (for example, sexual, emotional or physical abuse).
For some women, deciding whether or not to have an abortion is easier if they know how an abortion is carried out. There are different abortion procedures, and the method used depends on how long you have been pregnant. You can find out more about abortion procedures from:
Abortion care is available free through the NHS, or through other clinics and hospitals for a fee (the cost will vary).
For more information on abortion read the FPA bookletAbortion your questions answered.
Adoption could be a choice for you if you do not want to bring up the baby yourself but you do not want an abortion.
Adoption is a way of giving the baby new parents who will bring him or her up as their own. You will continue with the pregnancy and give birth, but you won’t look after the baby, and you won’t have legal rights or responsibilities regarding the child once the adoption is complete.
Adoption is a formal process organised by adoption agencies and local authorities, and made legal by the courts. Once an adoption is made legal the decision is final and cannot be changed.
Although you can start preparing for adoption at any time during your pregnancy, the adoption won’t be completed until after the baby is born. You will be asked to sign a formal document agreeing to the adoption, but you cannot be asked to do this until the baby is six weeks old. This agreement does not make the adoption final.
Usually the baby will go to foster carers for a short time while arrangements are made for him or her to move to the adoptive parents. The adoptive parents will then look after the baby, and apply to the court for an adoption order. Once the order is granted, the adoption is final and you will no longer be the baby’s legal parent.
You can change your mind at any stage before the adoption has been made legal but it may not be easy, or even possible, to get your baby back, depending on how far the adoption has progressed. The court will make a decision based on what is best for the baby. Once the adoption has been made legal, the baby will stay with the adoptive parents even if you change your mind.
Making a decision to have a baby adopted can be very difficult. If you think you might want to continue with the pregnancy and have the baby adopted, you may find it helpful to talk with someone who can tell you more about adoption, including:
If you are considering adoption, the social worker or adoption agency that is supporting you will arrange special adoption counselling. This is to make sure that you know exactly what the adoption involves, and to explore all possible options with you to help you make the right decision for you.
If you are thinking about having the baby adopted, finding out more about the adoption process may help you to work out whether it is a good decision for you. You may want to know answers to these questions:
To find out the answers to these and any other questions, you can ask an adoption social worker, the British Association of Adoption and Fostering.