Experiencing an unplanned pregnancy can be a time of great uncertainty and confusion. It can also be a lonely time - but you do not have to face it alone. Telling someone you're pregnant can be hard though, especially if it's someone whose support you're going to need, like your husband or partner, or your parents if you're a younger woman.
Your feelings about the pregnancy
Sometimes the best place to start is with how you feel about the pregnancy. Often an unplanned pregnancy raises a lot of different and sometimes confusing feelings and thoughts. For example, you may feel anxious since you cannot possibly consider having a baby until you are financially able to support the child, scared because you don’t know how to parent or concerned because you're still a teenager. At the same time you may also be overjoyed because this is what you've always wanted, and be excited since this may be a new opportunity for you. Despite the conflicting nature of these emotions they are all valid and need to be considered.
Who do I talk to first?
Once you get over the initial shock of finding out you're pregnant it can really help to talk to somebody about it.
The most important thing is that the person you tell is someone you feel you can trust and feel comfortable talking to. This person could be the man involved in the pregnancy, a friend or relative, or a worker at a support service.
Once you’ve told someone else you may feel some relief and that might make it easier to discuss it with your partner or your parents if and when you decide to.
Telling people you're pregnant might be the hardest part of your experience of an unplanned pregnancy because you may not know how they will react. It's normal to be nervous or concerned about people's reaction, but bear in mind that around 80% of the Australian population support women's right to choose and that almost one in three women have had an abortion.
To prepare for ‘the talk’, it is helpful to think about what you hope to get out of telling them and what you need from them. Some examples of questions you may like to ask yourself beforehand are:
- Do you want help with decision making and exploring your options?
- Do you just want them to listen and support you?
- Have you made your decisions and want their support?
They might react in many different ways and you need to remember that, like you, they may also be in shock. It is important to be prepared for the possibility of them reacting in an upset or angry way - they may need some time to think before they are able to provide the support and help that you need. However, their reaction could be supportive and understanding from the outset. Every situation and relationship is different so try to be prepared for whatever response you receive but keep in mind that this is difficult for them too.
Breaking the news
Finding a ‘good time’ to tell someone that you’re pregnant may be difficult but the time and place are important. You might want to consider the following:
- Do you have their complete attention?
- Are they about to leave for work?
- Are they preparing meals or caring for children?
- Is there a quiet space to talk?
- Do you have privacy?
- Will you be interrupted?
- Is it a safe and comfortable space for you?
- You might find it helpful to practice what you'll say before you let them know, or perhaps even write it down.
Starting the conversation can be tricky. Here are a few possible starting points:
- “I need to talk to you about something important.”
- “Can we sit down later, there’s something I need to speak to you about.”
- “I have something on my mind that I need some support with.”
- “I’ve just found out that I’m pregnant and I really need your support.”
- “I need your help with something and I really need you to listen to what I’m about to say.”
If you are concerned that you may receive an abusive reaction to the news or get ‘kicked out’ then it may not be the best idea to tell that person. Nobody has the right to be abusive and if there is a genuine concern that this may happen you should seek support and advice from a counsellor or make a plan to go somewhere safe. If you're a young woman it is also good to know the rules of the state you live in about young people getting reproductive healthcare without a parent or guardian’s consent. They differ for each state.
Dealing with the reaction
People can react to big news in different ways. Some may be very calm, some may be silent and shocked, others may be angry or cry. This is all normal. At this stage, it would be helpful for you to be able to discuss with them your feelings about the pregnancy and the support you need from them. If their reaction is very emotional they may need a little time to take in the news and think about their feelings about the pregnancy. If this is the case, perhaps you can talk again later once they have had time to do this.
Often, taking some time away from each other and then coming back to discuss the matter later is useful. This will give them a chance to process the information and calm down.
What happens next?
The big step for you now is to make your decision about the pregnancy. The support you receive will, to some extent, depend on the reaction from those important to you. However, in the decision making process you need to focus on yourself as you are the most important person in this process. This is not to say that others are not important, but it is vital that you don’t forget yourself and your own needs in making this decision.
To ensure that you cope effectively with an unplanned pregnancy, it is important that you have access to correct information and non-directive support about your options; parenting, adoption, and abortion. Seek out people who will be supportive and understanding without pressuring you to make one decision or another.
There is no right or wrong decision but only the best decision for you now.