Last year, my brother sent me an urgent text. I immediately called him and his first words were, “My girlfriend is pregnant, what should I do and how do I do it?” Clearly, for him, news of this unplanned pregnancy wasn’t exciting to him.
He said, “I don’t even think I have enough to support myself. And now my girlfriend is pregnant and I have no money to support the child.” I told him to take a deep breath and come on over for a chat. Over the next days, they had to deal with many common emotions related to such news. It worked out well for them eventually, and now they are happy parents to a wonderful baby girl.
But it got me thinking about people who may not be ready to be parents. A 2022 UNFPA report states, “Nearly half of all pregnancies, totalling 121 million each year throughout the world, are unintended.” So, on a fact-finding mission, I spoke with Dhriti Bhavsar, Masters in Psychology, with specialization in clinical psychology, for her expert opinion on how to navigate this life-changing event.
How To Know If Your Girlfriend Is Pregnant
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My brother and his partner were sure about the pregnancy, but maybe you’re going through a “I think my girlfriend is pregnant but we are not sure” phase? An unplanned pregnancy can be shocking, and coping with the immediate emotions can be difficult. Especially if you’re a teen because we all know there are psychological effects of teenage pregnancies.
The first thing you need to do is to confirm the pregnancy. Touching or looking at your girlfriend’s belly will not give you the right answer. This is especially true in the first trimester.
The quickest way to go about it is to buy a home pregnancy test kit that is easily available over the counter. But for a true confirmation, a blood test will confirm whether she’s pregnant or not. This option will detect pregnancy in the earliest stages as well, by confirming the presence of hCG in the blood. Other options include a clinical urine test and ultrasound that takes an image of the fetus.
What Are Your Options If Your Girlfriend Is Pregnant?
Now, let’s find out what to do if you accidentally get your girlfriend pregnant. This is a critical stage that requires careful consideration. You need to have plenty of conversations between the two of you before you rush a decision. When a partner is pregnant, you might feel:
- Mentally unprepared to deal with the magnitude of the news
- Financially insecure
- Emotionally ill-equipped to be a parent
- Other common emotions might be: Happiness, excitement, gratitude, overwhelm, shock, confusion, denial, anger, fear, helplessness, and a mix of these feelings
Therefore, it’s also important to learn how to treat a pregnant woman. Here are all your options when you learn the news.
1. Seek counseling and support
An unplanned pregnancy is shocking, and the news may not be easy to handle. According to Dhriti, the age of the couple matters too. She says, “If they are minors, it is pertinent that they get at least one responsible adult involved who can help them navigate the entire situation better.
“Yes, it will be scary and difficult, and they might even get punished, but at the end of the day, they’ll be able to get the guidance they need. If the family member is not someone they can trust, they can go to local resources for pregnant women. A trusted teacher would be able to help as well.”
Online support services
No matter your age, it helps to seek counseling services to ease your transition into this new world. Here are some sources of online support for you and your partner:
- Reddit communities:
- BabyCenter Community: It offers online forums and support groups for expectant parents and parents of young children
- BetterHelp: This online counseling platform provides access to licensed therapists via text, chat, phone, or video sessions
- Talkspace: It offers online therapy with licensed therapists through text, audio, and video messages
There are also US helplines like:
- National Parent Helpline
- Postpartum Support International (PSI)
- Adoption support helpline: Child Welfare Information Gateway
- Planned Parenthood
Please utilize such resources to get the necessary help and support. However, they should not be a substitute for seeking professional help if there is a need.
2. Embrace parenthood
A study explores the feelings of men who did not intend to have children and how they reach out to an online community for support and validation. Yes, having a pregnant girlfriend when you’re not ready may not be an ideal situation. But if you wish to take this as an opportunity to embrace parenthood like my brother and his girlfriend did, be ready to invest significant time, emotions, and effort into the process.
In case you are dealing with financial issues, Dhriti advises, “Some governments do provide grants to expectant mothers below the poverty line, so finding out if your state/country has any such resources in place would be helpful. If possible, the couple should reach out to family and their own parents for help with finances and any other support. All of this helps you feel safer in embracing parenthood.”
Related Reading: Let’s Make A Baby: A Man’s And A Woman’s Point Of View
3. Consider marriage or commitment, if you’re ready
The unplanned pregnancy may be the catalyst for getting into a marriage or commitment. However, don’t decide until you both weigh all the options. Parenthood amongst young couples forces you to face a future that has many concerns.
Getting married solely due to the pregnancy may not be the solution. Consider involving families and experts to help with a more deliberate decision-making process. There are many marriage lessons you need to know about before you take the leap.
4. “My girlfriend is pregnant and I’m not ready” — Adoption is a great option if you’re both not ready for parenthood
Dhriti says, “The couple can personally interview other people looking to adopt to ensure that the baby goes into a family that can provide.” Temporary foster care systems can provide housing for the child until the adoption agency finds the right people who want to adopt them.
Adoption also solves the valid issue that my brother faced: “My girlfriend is pregnant and I have no money.” To this, Dhriti says, “Bringing a child into financial instability is not a wise decision for the child or for the parents. In this case, adoption can definitely be considered.”
The advantage of the adoption process is that the child gets a loving and stable home. Also, open adoption, if you choose that, gives you the option to be there in a child’s life by being able to have some form of contact with them. Please be ready for a range of emotions when you let go of the child to the adoptive parents. There are many benefits of counseling in this scenario to make an informed decision.
5. “I think my girlfriend is pregnant, we don’t want it” — Consider an abortion
In this case, you have the option of terminating the pregnancy. Over 60% of unintended pregnancies end in abortion, as per the UNFPA report mentioned above. The choice of abortion allows you to postpone parenthood until you are both ready. Like in the case of adoption, abortion is emotionally difficult as well. You need to be ready to deal with feelings imposed by society, religion, or even loved ones, like guilt, doubt, and shame.
However, “At the end of the day, keeping the fetus or aborting is solely the pregnant person’s decision as it is their body that will bear the brunt of this pregnancy, and their life will be upturned more than anyone else’s,” says Dhriti. This is why you should take advantage of the available resources in the healthcare sector for safe procedures and to address any concerns you may have.
6. Co-parenting is a healthy option if you break up mutually and respectfully
Parenting is tough, but it is possible to do it together even if you are no longer romantically involved. You must both be committed to cooperation and providing a child with a stable environment. And if you’re a divorced couple who started seeing each other again (and it led to a pregnancy), you’ll need to set up some co-parenting rules for divorced couples.
Dhriti says, “However, if you are a couple who’s still in the process of figuring out your individual lives, think about the following:
- Consider where you are in life. Can you afford to sacrifice or amend your future plans? How much stability will you be able to provide yourself and a child?
- Financial conditions are an important consideration as well
- Can you raise a child without the immediate presence of the other parent?
- Are you ready to deal with the significant changes to your normal life that a baby will bring?
- Do you have the support of family, friends, and community resources?
- How do both partners feel about becoming parents? An open conversation between both people is extremely important and it should remain as free of blame and judgment as possible.”
7. Single parenthood
What happens in the case of “I think my girlfriend is pregnant, and I know she does not want it”? Well, if she still wants to give birth but not be a parent, and you want to be a dad for sure, then consider single parenthood. Just like Tom Cruise, Karamo Brown, Cristiano Ronaldo, Liam Neeson, and a host of other famous and not-famous men.
However, be ready for the emotional turmoil that accompanies a decision. You may have periods of doubt about your capacity to be the best single parent. According to Dhriti, “Parenting is difficult, and it is good to realize when one is not ready for it ‘before’ the child is born. Many children are unfortunately raised by people who were not ready to be parents and end up going through unnecessary trauma.”
So this is great news for the child if they have one loving parent (you) waiting for them already. To prepare for single parenthood or fatherhood:
- Lean on your family, friends, and the community for support
- Educate yourself on how to be a good father
- Unlearn restrictive definitions of masculinity as time goes by
- Connect with single parents, especially single fathers, online or in real life
- And learn to take help!
Ex-Girlfriend is pregnant – What rights do you have?
Well, you still have the same rights and responsibilities concerning the child, no matter the status of the relationship.
- Establish paternity so that you have custody, visitation, and decision-making rights regarding the child
- In case of a paternity dispute, the court may order a paternity test to establish biological parentage. Consult a qualified attorney to guide you through the process and to protect your rights
- As a biological parent, you have a right to be able to provide for your child, in the form of child support. This ensures that the child’s financial needs are taken care of. The amount you pay can be voluntarily agreed upon. If not, once again, the courts will have to step in and decide for you. It is always in everyone’s best interest that you amicably agree to a solution on how you will pay child support
How Do I Handle It If “My Girlfriend Is Pregnant But Not Ready?”
What to do if you accidentally get your girlfriend pregnant? Well, an unplanned pregnancy is already tough on its own. But, it can get quite challenging if your girlfriend is not ready to be a mother yet.
My brother’s girlfriend had to contend with a child growing in her body. She had many emotions, fears, and concerns. She was trying to reconcile with the fact that a baby will determine the course of her life and career. My brother had to learn plenty of empathy, as well as the following:
- Open communication: Sit down with your pregnant girlfriend for a good talk. You will need to know the commandments of open communication. Remember, this is not a one-time conversation but something you must keep up until you are both on the same page. Actively listen to understand her fears and concerns from her perspective as she is about to make the biggest life decisions. Stay calm and use this time to arrive at a consensus
- Educate yourselves if you wish to be parents: You’re being pushed into parenthood without the benefit of time to plan for it. Hence, gathering information could help your girlfriend prepare mentally and logistically. Educate yourselves on everything to do with pregnancy and parenting. She might even want to talk about the effects of the post-pregnancy weight gain and how it can impact her self-confidence. Get expert help from counselors and healthcare professionals specializing in pregnancy-related topics, as well as other parents
- Explore her feelings honestly: Peel back the layers to understand why your girlfriend is pregnant but not ready. The reason could simply be fear or concerns about pregnancy. Other deeper concerns could be fear of her parent’s reaction to the news, fears around her career and individuality, societal stigma, etc. Don’t add guilt to what she’s feeling and remember that the final decision is hers
- Plan for the future: Unless the final decision is an abortion, the baby will be here very soon. My brother and his girlfriend were shocked at how fast the first trimester went by, with shopping for baby clothes, planning a baby shower, and more. In the second and third trimesters, there was simply no time. Have candid conversations about finances, co-parenting strategies, and anything else concerning the baby. Both of you will need plenty of support, direction, and financial planning tips, especially from those who have been through it before
- Gauge your own readiness: She has been honest about not being ready for the child. But have you taken time to consider that you may not be as well? Honesty and clarity are critical at this time on both your parts
According to Dhriti, “It is equally the responsibility of both partners, so the man by no means can excuse himself from this responsibility. She would be experiencing hormonal changes along with a lot of emotional turmoil. Unplanned pregnancies tend to be tougher on women than men due to societal standards. So being present in her life, and being her support system is most important. Accompany her to any doctor visits or when she is revealing the pregnancy to family or someone else so that she does not have to go through something so scary on her own.”
Related Reading: 9 Solid Reasons Not To Date A Man With A Kid
- “My girlfriend is pregnant, what should I do?” It requires that you stay calm and think things through
- Don’t make a final decision based on societal stigma or the fear of losing your partner. Take into account your capabilities and capacities as well as your desires and goals
- Young couples will need a strong support system and professional guidance to cope with the challenges that accompany an unplanned pregnancy
- Giving the child up for adoption or abortion are viable solutions if parenting is not in the cards for a couple
- Remember that the ultimate decision needs to be left to the person who’s pregnant, regarding whether they want to have a baby or not
We summarize this article with an expert input from Dhriti: “It is important to consider both the practical and the emotional consequences of an unplanned pregnancy. There is no right or wrong decision as the whole situation is very subjective — There is only what is right for you. Finding support groups of other young parents who have dealt with unplanned pregnancies on the internet can be helpful as you can find comfort and guidance in their experience.”