Support & Counselling
Referrals To Pregnancy Counselling
While the majority of women and pregnant people will not need to talk to a counsellor in order to make a decision regarding pregnancy options, some women and pregnant people find this support helpful.
It is important to be aware that around Australia, some pregnancy counselling services advertise as all-options when they are in fact run on an anti-abortion bias. More information on this issue is available here.
For a woman and pregnant people considering an abortion, speaking to an anti-choice counsellor can be very distressing. If you’re looking for a genuine all-options pregnancy counselling service, see the list below. If you’d like any more info on this issue please contact us.
If you or the woman or pregnant person you’re supporting has already decided to proceed with an abortion and does not want counselling, no requirement is in place in most states of Australia for pre-abortion counselling.
Genuine all-options pregnancy support services
Few specialised all options pregnancy counselling services exist in Australia. In 2014, a group of professionals working in this area formed the National Alliance of Abortion and Pregnancy Options Counsellors (NAAPOC). Children by Choice is a founding member of the Alliance, as are the services listed below. If you are interested in finding out more about NAAPOC or in your service becoming a member, contact us.
While other all options services or individual practitioners may exist, we refer to the following services as due to our close working relationships with these services as part of NAAPOC, we are confident of their pro-choice and person-centred framework:
Marie Stopes is an abortion and contraceptive services provider with clinics across several states and territories of Australia; however, they also provide decision-making counselling via telephone across the country from their Melbourne call centre. Their counselling team is separate from their abortion provision arm.
Phone 1300 003 707
The Pregnancy Advisory Service at the Royal Women’s Hospital in Melbourne provides pregnancy options counselling and support by phone and by face to face appointments with professional counsellors and social workers, as well as being Victoria’s largest public hospital provider of abortions.
Phone 03 8345 3061 (for professionals)
Phone 03 8345 3063 (for patients and clients)
The Pregnancy Advisory Centre is part of the Central Adelaide Local Health Network run by the South Australian Health Department. It is a public service which provides all options counselling and support, as well as being the largest public provider of pregnancy termination in SA.
Phone 1800 672 966 or 08 8243 3999
Sexual health and family planning services in each state and territory should be able to provide comprehensive referral and information on all pregnancy options, including abortion, adoption and parenting.
State and territory services are listed on the website of the Family Planning Alliance Australia.
Supporting Pregnant People
These principles have been developed by the Children by Choice counselling team, who are all tertiary-qualified and specialists in the area of all-options pregnancy counselling and support from a pro-choice, person-centred framework. The principles and micro skills below are covered in more depth in our professional development training; if you are regularly dealing with disclosure or requests for support in relation to people considering pregnancy options, you may wish to consider covering these issues in more depth through our training.
Commitment to the principle of reproductive autonomy: we believe that women and pregnant people can freely make their own reproductive and sexual health choices.
“The personal is political”: women’s and pregnant people’s experience is shaped by the dominant gendered discourse as well as by such issues as age, religious affiliation, culture and ethinicity, sexuality, economic status, and health.
The woman or pregnant person is the expert in their own life: they know best their own strengths and capacities, their experiences and the meanings they have drawn from them, their hopes and aspirations, as well as their values, beliefs and sentiments for living.
Some specific questions are offered below as a way of bringing these principles into your practice.
Deal with your own beliefs and values and keep them separate from those of your patient or client. Refer on if needed.
Listen to their story without giving judgement, opinions or advice, and without blaming:
“How did you feel when you found out you were pregnant?”
“What are your needs, wants and concerns?”
Explore a broad range of factors that may impact on their decision, and clarify any statements that may seem straightforward but can be complex – like “giving a child the best start in life,” “I don’t believe in abortion,” or “dad will kill me”:
“What information do you need in order to reach your decision?’
“Tell me what you mean when you say…?”
Normalising an unplanned pregnancy can be helpful for some women and pregnant people:
“Estimates are that around half of all pregnancies in Australia are unplanned, so you’re not alone in this experience.”
Put yourself in their shoes: use empathy and understanding.
“Considering pregnancy options can be stressful. How are you coping? How do you normally go about making big decisions in your life?”
Explore their values and how they may impact on their options: discuss coping issues and strategies and identify factors present that may influence coping eg: no support, feeling pressured, relationship breakdown, past difficulties coping with major decisions:
“How do you think you will feel after an abortion?”
“Who is likely to provide you with support if you continue the pregnancy?”
Attend to their emotional and practical needs:
“What are your plans or goals for the future?”
“How important to you are these plans?”
“How will your decision affect your plans?”
Challenge gently and purposefully, use self-disclosure carefully if at all, and use reality testing in a way that is practical and without judgement:
“What supports will you need to continue the pregnancy and parent? How will this work on a day to day basis?”
“Who is likely to provide you with support if you terminate the pregnancy?”
Assist where possible to give women and pregnant people referrals for financial assistance, liaise with clinic services where clients have difficulties with English and where consent issues may be present.
Things to Be Mindful of
Throughout your interaction with a patient or client, keep in mind your approach, your language, your environment, and your information.
Can your client understand your language/terms/jargon? Is it youth appropriate? Be careful not to speak in a condescending manner.
Most women and pregnant people ask “what does gestation mean?” Do they have basic reproductive knowledge?
Refrain from using terms such as “late” or “early” term pregnancy. Alternative questioning may be “how far into the pregnancy are you?”
Instead of saying “father of the child”, consider “man involved”, particularly if the pregnant woman or pregnant person themselves has not told you of the relationship between the two of them. Be mindful that an ongoing relationship cannot be assumed, so “partner” or “boyfriend” isn’t appropriate unless they refer to him that way. Additionally, don’t assume a relationship at all – there may have been drugs or alcohol involved, or a sexual assault, or it may have been a one-night stand.
How approachable are you and your organisation for a woman or pregnant person econsidering their pregnancy options?
Be mindful of your setting: do you have pictures on your desk of your family?
Is there a quiet space available?
Is there a room available without baby/family themes?
Ensure you have accurate and up to date information on all options, including referrals for abortion, adoption, and parenting organisations and services. Many women and pregnant people are repeatedly faced with a variety of health professionals providing them with inaccurate information. This can be especially important with ascertaining the gestation of a pregnancy and the availability of abortion services.
Keep updated, as contacts, procedures, costs and other essential information for clients can change rapidly.
Keep opportunistic testing in mind (eg sexual health check, pap smear etc).