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An unexpected pregnancy can be a difficult event to face. You might feel nervous, afraid, or overwhelmed, especially if you aren’t sure how you’re going to handle the situation.

You might have already started to think over your options. The only safe, effective way to end a pregnancy is a professionally performed abortion. There’s no alternative to abortion if you don’t want to carry out the pregnancy.

But abortion isn’t right for everyone. You have other options, though they all involve continuing the pregnancy.

Here’s a look at those options and their pros and cons. When considering these options, keep in mind there’s no right or wrong answer.

Adoption means you go through with pregnancy and childbirth and then allow another family to raise the child.

If you do decide to go with adoption, you’ll need to consider two other decisions:

  • Do you want a closed or open adoption?
  • Do you want to do a direct placement or use an agency?

We’ll get into what all this means below.

Closed adoption

In a closed adoption, you have no contact with the child or their adoptive family once you give birth and place the child for adoption.

The adoptive family may choose not to tell the child about the adoption. If they do share this information, the child may have access to adoption records once they turn 18. This usually depends on state law and the type of paperwork involved in the adoption.

Open adoption

An open adoption allows you to keep in touch with the child’s adoptive family.

The type and level of communication varies, but the family may:

  • send yearly photos, letters, or other updates
  • call you with updates from time to time
  • visit from time to time
  • encourage the child to reach out once they reach a certain age

The details of the arrangement will be determined beforehand. You’ll have the opportunity to communicate exactly what you want before agreeing to anything.

Direct placement adoption

If you want to choose the adoptive family yourself, a direct placement adoption may be right for you.

You’ll need the help of an adoption attorney for a direct placement adoption. The adoptive family will typically cover the legal fees.

Your attorney can also help you and the adoptive family decide on an open or closed adoption as well as the terms of the contract.

Agency adoption

If you choose to place your child with adoption through an adoption agency, finding the right agency is important.

Choose one that:

  • offers counseling and information about all pregnancy options
  • helps you access medical care and emotional support
  • treats you with compassion, not judgment or disdain
  • is licensed and operates ethically
  • answers your questions openly and honestly
  • allows you to have at least some say in your child’s adoptive family (if that’s something you want)

There are many adoption agencies to choose from. If you get a bad feeling from one agency, don’t hesitate to choose another. It’s important you feel supported throughout the process of adoption.

Adoption pros

  • You give someone who can’t have children the chance to raise a child.
  • You give the child the opportunity to have a lifestyle or family you can’t provide.
  • You can focus on school, work, or other needs if you aren’t ready to be a parent.

Adoption cons

  • You permanently give up parenting rights.
  • You may disagree with how the adoptive parents raise the child.
  • Pregnancy and childbirth may be difficult or painful.
  • Pregnancy and childbirth could have an impact on your body or health.

Like adoption, guardianship involves placing your child with another person or family and allowing them to raise the child. By choosing a guardian instead of an adoptive family, you keep some of your parental rights.

This option might be a good choice for you if you can’t raise a child right now but see your circumstances changing in a few years, or if you know you want to stay closely involved in your child’s life.

Guardianship may involve monthly child support payments, so it’s important to consider your financial situation as well.

Who can be a guardian?

Many people choose a close friend or relative to act as a legal guardian for the child. Still, the process can have emotional consequences, so it’s important to carefully think things over and have frank, open discussions with the potential guardian.

How do I start the process?

If you decide on guardianship, you’ll need to talk to an attorney. Laws about legal guardianship vary by area. An attorney can help you navigate your options.

Guardianship pros

  • You can still see the child.
  • You may have a say in some decisions, such as religion or healthcare.
  • Guardianship can be temporary.
  • Typically, you choose the child’s guardian.

Guardianship cons

  • You might disagree with the guardian’s parenting approach.
  • You might have a hard time seeing someone else raise the child.
  • It may be painful for the child and the guardian when you’re able to take custody of the child.

Even if you didn’t plan on having kids for years or never really thought about having kids at all, you might be considering the possibility of becoming a parent.

Many people find parenting rewarding. It can also be tough, especially if you don’t have a lot of support. The financial costs of parenting can quickly add up, though many states offer resources to parents and families in financial difficulties.

There are a couple of ways to go about parenting, depending on your relationship with the other parent.

Co-parenting

Co-parenting means you share parenting responsibilities with the child’s other parent, even when you don’t have a romantic relationship.

This might work well if:

  • You have a good relationship with the other person.
  • You both want children.
  • The two of you can come to an agreement on a co-parenting arrangement.

On the other hand, it might not be ideal if:

  • The father wants no involvement with you or the child.
  • Your relationship was in any way abusive (emotional or physical).
  • You aren’t sure of the father’s level of commitment to the child.
  • You don’t want to have any involvement with the father.

Before you make a decision, it’s important to have an open conversation about how you each feel about parenting.

If one of you isn’t sold on the idea, there could be problems down the line. To successfully co-parent, you both need to be on board with the idea.

Keep in mind that some people may have a change of heart (for better or worse) after the birth of a child. You have to consider the possibility that the other parent may not want to stay involved in the child’s life down the line.

Single parenting

There’s no way around it: Single parenting can be tough. But many people who choose to become single parents embrace this decision and never regret it, despite the challenges they may face.

Being a single parent doesn’t mean you need to go it alone. Parents, siblings, other relatives, and even friends may want to be involved in the child’s life. This kind of support can make a big difference.

Talking to the people you’re closest to can help you get an idea of the support you might have as a single parent.

Things to consider

Before deciding on parenting, you’ll also need to think about some practical issues:

  • Do you have your own place?
  • Are you financially stable?
  • Can you take time away from work or school for a few months, or will you need to return right after giving birth?
  • Can someone look after your child while you’re at work or school, or will you need to pay for child care?
  • Can you handle being completely responsible for someone else’s needs?

You might worry that friends and family will judge you for choosing to be a single parent, but their reactions may surprise you.

If you’re worried about a negative reaction, consider talking to a therapist to help you anticipate any issues and come up with solutions. Remember, there are no right or wrong answers here.

Talking to other single parents may also give you a better idea of what to expect from the whole process.

If you choose to parent alone, you may need to delay or change some of your plans for the future, but you can still live a rewarding and enjoyable life if you choose this path.

Just make sure you take time to consider the possible challenges involved and how they might affect you later in life.

Parenting pros

  • Raising a child can add joy, love, and fulfillment to your life.
  • Depending on your circumstances, starting a family may increase your satisfaction with life.
  • Choosing to co-parent could lead to a positive or improved bond with the child’s other parent.

Parenting cons

  • Raising a child can be expensive.
  • You can’t predict how the other parent will act down the road.
  • You might have to postpone your plans for the future.
  • Pregnancy and childbirth can sometimes have long-term effects on mental and emotional health.
  • Your lifestyle, hobbies, or living situation may need to change.

Making a decision about an unwanted pregnancy can be incredibly hard and complex. There are things you can do to ease the process.

If you feel comfortable doing so, start by reaching out to trusted friends or family members. In addition to emotional support, they can offer advice and guidance.

But in the end, the decision is up to you. This is a personal decision that involves your body, your health, and your future. Only you can consider all the factors involved and decide what’s best for yourself.

Pregnancy or no pregnancy?

Remember, abortion is the only option for not continuing a pregnancy. If you’re still on the fence about whether or not you want to go through with the pregnancy, it might help you learn more about what happens during pregnancy and childbirth.

An unbiased healthcare provider can help with some of this. Online communities or friends and family who’ve gone through the process can also help.

Consider therapy

Regardless of the direction you’re leaning toward, talking to a therapist who has experience dealing with unintended pregnancy can make a big difference.

They can help you better understand your feelings around the pregnancy and help you weigh your options. Once you make a decision, they can also help you navigate the specifics, from talking about co-parenting with the other parent to deciding on the best type of adoption for your needs.

You can find therapists in your area through Psychology Today and the American Psychological Association. Both directories have filters that allow you to search for therapists who focus on issues related to pregnancy and parenting.

Worried about the cost? Our guide to affordable therapy can help.

Take advantage of resources

There are a range of resources available to help people in your position.

Planned Parenthood offers a range of pregnancy-related services, including adoption agency referrals, counseling, and parenting classes. Find a center in your area here.

Your healthcare provider can also refer you to local resources that might be helpful. In addition, colleges and universities have wellness centers where you can take a pregnancy test, learn more about your options, and usually get a referral to a healthcare provider or clinic.

If you’re having a hard time finding support in your area, All-Options is an online resource for free, phone-based counseling and support. They offer compassionate, unbiased, nondiscriminatory support, no matter what option you’re considering.

As you look into your options and local resources, you may come across pregnancy centers that offer free pregnancy tests and other services. They might refer to themselves as a crisis pregnancy center or pregnancy resource center.

While some of these centers can be helpful, many are dedicated to preventing abortion for religious or political reasons. This might seem like a good idea if you’re looking for abortion alternatives, but these centers may offer false or misleading medical information and statistics.

To evaluate whether a pregnancy center will provide unbiased information, call them and ask the following:

  • What services do you provide?
  • What kind of medical professionals do you have on staff?
  • Do you offer condoms or other types of birth control?
  • Do you test for sexually transmitted infections (STIs)?
  • Do you provide abortion services or referrals to providers who do?

If the answer to any of these questions is no, or the clinic staff won’t answer certain questions, it’s best to avoid that center. A trustworthy resource will be upfront about what they do and offer judgement-free information about all of your options.

An unplanned pregnancy can be hard to face, especially if you don’t know who to talk to about it. Talking to your loved ones can help, but remember: It’s your body, and the choice of what to do is yours alone.


Crystal Raypole has previously worked as a writer and editor for GoodTherapy. Her fields of interest include Asian languages and literature, Japanese translation, cooking, natural sciences, sex positivity, and mental health. In particular, she’s committed to helping decrease stigma around mental health issues.