Unplanned Pregnancy

The shock of an unintended pregnancy can leave you feeling scared and lost, even if you're in a steady relationship. This is a time when you need all the support you can get.

There are lots of organisations that can provide expert, confidential and impartial advice and counselling if you find yourself facing an unplanned pregnancy. They can help you to consider the options and will support you once you've decided what is right for you. They can offer advice about everything, from where and how to seek help if you choose to continue with the pregnancy, to details of adoption agencies and abortion clinics.

Adoption

If you decide you're not in the position to raise your own child, but don't want to terminate the pregnancy, you may want to consider adoption.

Before making a decision, it's important that you're aware of all the facts. You'll be advised to discuss things with your family, a counsellor and a social worker or adoption agency. You need to be aware of your rights and responsibilities and think carefully about what will happen during your pregnancy and afterwards. To find out more about the practical process of adoption, visit Radio 1's One Life website.

Although fewer people now consider adoption, there's a large demand for adoptive children, especially babies, through a variety of charities or local social services. Potential parents are scrutinised thoroughly and great care is taken in placing these babies with the right family. If you decide to go ahead with adoption, the adopted parents will then have legal responsibility for the baby.

After you've had your baby adopted, you're likely to feel very emotional. It's normal to feel a mixture of guilt, loss and grief, even if you've thought long and hard before making your decision and are certain you've made the right choice. It's important that you don't ignore these feelings. Several adoption organisations offer counselling and support. For a list of useful contacts visit One Life.

You can also call the British Association for Adoption & Fostering for further information. See below for details.

Abortion

Terminating a pregnancy isn't an easy decision for anyone

Terminating a pregnancy isn't an easy decision for anyone. If you're considering abortion, the first step is to make an appointment with your GP to discuss your thoughts. If your GP agrees with your decision, you'll be referred to a clinic for an assessment. You could also call the British Pregnancy Advisory Service for information on all your options and support and advice. See below for details.

The decision to have an abortion is rarely taken lightly. If you're referred to a clinic, they'll want to be sure that it's in your - or the baby's - best interests, and two doctors will have to agree on this.

In the UK, abortion is only legal if performed under the strict criteria and guidelines of the Abortion Act, laid down to protect the welfare of the mother and the unborn child. It can only be carried out up to 24 weeks of pregnancy, except in cases where the mother's life is at risk or there's a real risk that the child would have a severe physical or mental disability. In such cases, there is no legal time limit.

Abortion is a relatively safe procedure when done by trained professionals. It can be done in several ways, depending on the stage of the pregnancy:

Up to nine weeks - the 'abortion pill' can be used, which often doesn't require a hospital stay.
Five to 15 weeks - the pregnancy can be removed through a tube placed through the vagina. This can be done as a day case, avoiding a hospital stay.

15 to 19 weeks - it may be necessary to stretch the cervix to empty the womb, which may require a light anaesthetic.

More advanced pregnancies are rarely terminated, but when they are more complicated surgery is required.

The psychological strain after an abortion can be enormous and it's important you get all the support and help you need. There are lots of organisations that can help; you can find their contact details below. It's also important to get some expert advice about contraception methods.

Whatever you decide, make sure it's what you want and not what others think you should do. These are crucial decisions in your life and you have to be sure you're choosing what's best for you.

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