Image: Charlie Davidson
It’s something many parents of teens worry about – your daughter or son has not only been having sex but they or their partner is pregnant.
It can be a very emotional time and it’s important to get support. Chances are that your child didn’t plan this and they will be feeling scared and anxious about what to do.
What are the options?
There are three choices women of any age can consider when faced with an unplanned pregnancy:
- end the pregnancy by having an abortion.
- continue with the pregnancy and have the child adopted.
- continue with the pregnancy and become a parent.
Some young women know straight away what they want to do but others struggle.
It can be a hard time for the male partner as legally they have no right to decide what happens. However, they will have rights and responsibilities if she chooses to continue with the pregnancy and keep the baby.
It’s your daughter’s decision
However hard it is, at the end of the day it’s your daughter’s decision to make.
If your daughter decides an abortion is right for her then she will need to see a doctor who will talk through the decision, explain what an abortion involves and decide if she is eligible. If so the doctor will refer her on to an NHS abortion service.
If there are no problems with the procedure, then having an abortion will not affect a woman’s chances of having a baby in the future.
The Abortion Act 1967, which applies in England, Scotland and Wales, was never extended to Northern Ireland and abortion there is only legal in very limited circumstances. See http://www.fpa.org.uk/unplanned-pregnancy-and-abortion/unplanned-pregnancy-post-abortion-counselling-northern-ireland for help and advice.
My daughter is going ahead with the pregnancy
While overall evidence shows that it’s beneficial to have a low teenage pregnancy rate, many young parents, although often admitting they wish they had waited, make fantastic parents and prove that they can look after a child.
The father may be supportive or he may feel angry or upset. Sometimes young fathers can feel excluded from the pregnancy process as it is ‘all about the woman’ and it can be easy for them to drop out of the picture if unsupported. Most young men want to be good parents too.
Some services that help young parents have specific advice and information for dads too, and the social networking site bubbalicious supports both young mums and dads.
Services for young parents are often commissioned by local authorities, so it is worth checking with them what's available in your area.
If your daughter is still at school or college then get their support so she can stay on as long as possible and think about how she can continue her education once the baby is born.
It’s also important that young dads are supported through their education so they can share the load of looking after a baby. It’s helpful to know what will happen if either parent needs to take time off to look after an ill child and what extra support could be provided.
There is help available (in support networks below) to make staying in education easier, for example through government schemes and with financial assistance. There is also support to help young parents enter or return to work.
Pregnancy alters a woman’s body and, for a teenage parent, this comes at a time when her body is still changing anyway. It’s important for her to stay fit and healthy with a balanced diet and to minimise risk factors like smoking or drinking.
There are bound to be emotional highs and lows throughout the pregnancy and beyond but having the support of family and friends will help to ensure it is not an isolating experience.
Building confidence is important to make them believe they can handle the pregnancy, the birth and being a parent.
Adjusting to being a parent can be hard for anybody but it can be particularly difficult for young people. Parents can't go out as often and it can be hard to maintain friendships. Meeting and talking to other parents can make a woman or her partner feel less alone.
Antenatal classes may be full of older women and young people may feel they don't have anything in common with them beyond the pregnancy. But classes are a good opportunity to learn more about pregnancy and to prepare for the birth, so it’s important young parents don’t miss out.
In some areas there are special classes just for young parents, and Family Nurse Partnership is commissioned by many local authorities to support them throughout pregnancy.
Family Lives has a directory signposting sources of help, covering education, finance, and emotional support, as well as a free helpline.
Prymface is a project started by a woman who became a parent aged 17.
Gingerbread gives support and advice for single parents
Start4life has information on pregnancy and birth.
Bubbalicious is a social network site just for young parents.
My daughter wants to have the baby adopted
Your daughter may decide during or after the pregnancy that she wants to have the baby adopted. Once the process is complete, she won’t have any legal rights or responsibilities regarding the child.
A woman can change her mind at any stage before the adoption has been made legal but it may not be easy, or even possible, to get the baby back, depending on how far the adoption process has progressed. Making this decision can be very difficult, and it’s important that your daughter is able to make it, with support, in the way that is best for her.
People who can help her to think about this decision include a doctor or nurse at her GP surgery, a social worker at the local hospital (ask at the maternity unit), or an adoption social worker at the local social services department.