We get a lot of questions on here about pregnancy, from people worried about if activity x, y, or z can get them pregnant, to those who already are pregnant and wondering about their options. This is designed to answer some of the basic questions, but as ever, please ask away if you have any more questions.
Two quick points before I start: –
1) This is primarily aimed at handling unplanned, unexpected pregnancies. If you want information on conceiving, or are trying for a baby, feel free to ask questions in this forum but you may get better advice elsewhere.
2) This is NOT the place for morality debates on abortion or any other stage of the process.
This is really quite simple. A girl can only get pregnant if sperm get into the vagina, through the cervix into the uterus and Fallopian tubes and meet an egg. However, there are lots of questions on this, so I’ll handle the two main components separately.
If not on hormonal contraception, most women ovulate around day 14 of their cycle (if the cycle is 28 days) but this is variable. The egg remains viable for around 5 days. With careful planning and taking regular measurements of temperature etc, it’s possible to know when a woman is ovulating and avoid it, but without this it’s very unpredictable. A girl can get pregnant at any time in her cycle, so never assume it’s safe, even during menstruation. However, some times are more risky than others. Regardless of the stage in your cycle, if you have unprotected sex (i.e. when not on the pill), you need to take emergency contraception.
Sperm are really fairly weak little things and will die quite quickly if left to their own devices in open air. They can survive inside the body for up to 7 days but most don’t. Realistically, pregnancy is only likely to happen if sperm is deposited inside the vagina – it is extremely unlikely to occur if transferred by hands etc. However, this does not mean the withdrawal method is effective: –
◦ Some sperm can leak before the final ejaculation.
◦ Do you really trust your man to pull out at the right time every time?
◦ Even if the guy pulls out, if he’s still in that area when he ejaculates, there’s a (small) risk some can still get inside.
Unless you have full unprotected sex and the guy ejaculates inside you, pregnancy is very unlikely. However, if you have any worries at all, you should take emergency contraception and have a test done when your next period is due.
“Symptoms” of pregnancy
Lots of you are worried that a bit of bloating, nausea or abdominal pain means you are pregnant. While these can happen to pregnant women, they also happen a lot to normal, non-pregnant ones! The ONLY way to know if you are pregnant or not is to take a test.
You can take a pregnancy test as soon as your next period is due. If you are unsure about when that is, wait 21 days after you had unprotected sex and then do the test. If you are at uni, your student union welfare service may offer these for free, or you may be able to get one at your local FPA, sexual health clinic or NHS walk-in centre. Your GP may offer them as well, though some aren’t so keen to do one if you haven’t already taken one yourself. So, first of all, there are plenty of places to get them for free!
Secondly, there is no need to spend loads of money on expensive brand-name tests. The pharmacy own-brand ones are just as accurate, but with slightly less fancy packaging. Usually they come in a pack of two so that you can double check (or save one for a few weeks later if you are still worried).
There are only two results for the test:
For most of you, this is good news. These tests are very accurate, so it’s extremely likely to be the correct result. If your period still hasn’t arrived within a few weeks after that, try taking another one, or see your GP. If that’s still negative, then relax, smile, and think about getting some more reliable contraception for next time! You also might want to think about getting an STI test if you and your partner have not had one.
This can bring forth a whole range of emotions. You might know immediately what you want to do, you might want to talk about it with someone, or you might just be in complete shock. Whatever your reaction, don’t panic. There are people around to help you and you can find the answers which work best for you.
The FPA have a very useful leaflet on what to do, including phone numbers and contact details for organisations who can offer support. You might want to discuss it with the father, your parents or your friends – it will make it much easier than going through it alone.
There are three basic options now. Nobody on TSR can tell you for sure what the right answer for you is. There are lots of things to consider, including (but not limited to):
◦ How much support do you have around you – family, boyfriend, friends?
◦ What stage of your education/career are you at? Is it feasible for you to take a break to have and raise a child?
◦ Do you, your partner and/or your wider family have enough money, space and time for a baby?
◦ How stable is your relationship? If your partner leaves, how will you cope with the added burden of a child?
◦ Are you ready to be a parent?
◦ Do you think you can mentally cope with an abortion or giving away your baby?
You can try to write a list of pros and cons if you like, but at the end of the day the decision can sometimes be one that feels right, rather than the logically obvious solution. Whatever your decision, be sure that your reasons for it are sound and you won’t regret it later.
Keep it. Once you’ve decided this, you can start to prepare. You will need to start antenatal care with a midwife, so contact your GP to arrange this. Usually the midwife will come and visit you at home for the first time early in pregnancy. You may also want to ask for advice about things like dietary supplements such as folic acid and iron, quitting smoking, not drinking and other aspects of healthy living. If you have a pre-existing medical condition such as asthma or diabetes, or take any medication regularly, you may need specialist advice or to change some of your treatments during pregnancy. You will also need STI testing, as some infections can be spread to the unborn child. Your midwife should be able to arrange this.
Have a termination/abortion. If you decide you do not want to continue with this pregnancy, you need to start making arrangements for an abortion ASAP. Go to your GP, or if you would prefer, your local sexual health service. They will then refer you to a hospital where you will have a scan to determine the exact age of the pregnancy, and to see another doctor to arrange the abortion. There should be counselling services available to you if you are unsure of the decision or just want to talk to someone – ask about these if they’re not offered! The consultation is entirely confidential, even if you are under 16, and if you do not want them to inform your GP, you can tell them this.
There are two types of abortion: medical and surgical. The details on these can be found on the RCOGwebsite. Depending on the stage of your pregnancy and your local centre, you may be able to choose which type you have, though this may not be possible. You will also be offered STI testing when you go to the hospital to arrange the abortion.
There are many moral questions about abortion, but the only person who can decide what is right for you is YOU. Abortion in Great SA is safe and legal (providing certain conditions are met). There is no evidence that it affects your fertility in the future. It can cause a lot of distress, however, so make sure you have the support you need, from professional counsellors or friends and family.
Have the baby adopted. Here, you go through with the pregnancy, but do not keep the baby once it is born; it will probably go initially to a foster carer before its final adoptive parents take over. Legally binding documents are not signed until the baby is at least 6 weeks old. If you are married to the father, or if you are unmarried but his name is put on the birth certificate, he must also agree to adoption. If you are unmarried and the father’s name is not on the birth certificate, he does not have to agree. This is a decision between you and the father.
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