As they are feeling overwhelmed, you may be too. If you have another adult with whom you can share this, such as your spouse, a relative, or an understanding friend, it will probably help. Whatever feelings you are going through right now, your teenager has probably felt a similar initial reaction. Search down inside yourself for understanding and patience. At least they chose to come to you with this situation. You must now decide how you will respond to her display of trust.
We recommend that you try your best to avoid approaching this situation in a punitive manner. Punishment won’t make the situation any better, nor improve your child’s self-esteem, which may be very low at the moment. It is natural to try to find someone to blame in these circumstances. In most instances, parents want to blame the other young person involved. That may set up a hostile situation between you and your child if he is someone she cares for. There are times as a parent when you may feel that you can’t do anything right–no matter what, you are the villain. But laying down the law and telling her that they can’t see each other again will probably result in an angry, defiant teenager who may find a way to see each other anyway. If possible, consider having both your families meet to discuss the situation.
A person who is pregnant has three options: they may continue the pregnancy to term and raise the child alone or within the family; they may carry to term and give the child up for adoption; or have an abortion. Abortion is available as an option in the US through about 24 weeks of pregnancy.
No one choice is right for everyone, and often the situations surrounding unplanned pregnancies are complex. In terms of long-range mental health, the staff at Equality Health Center believe it is crucial for them to take the major role in decision-making about the pregnancy. Sometimes, this may seem impractical, especially when they are very young. It is, however, part of respecting their rights as an individual and of asking them to begin being responsible for decisions they make.
- Carrying to term: If they decide to carry the pregnancy to term, or is too advanced for an abortion, it is very important that they see a doctor during her pregnancy. Many young people have higher rates of problem pregnancies and deliveries in part because they have not had proper pre-natal care. Most hospitals and family practice clinics provide pre-natal care, and many have classes specifically for young people who need preparation in raising a child.
- Adoption: There are a number of adoption agencies, including some that are actual maternity homes. Through many of these agencies maternity expenses can be paid if they choose to give the child up for adoption. Many also have counseling and support services available for the them and their families. For referrals to adoption services in New Hampshire, visit the Department of Health & Human Services website.
- Abortion: If your child chooses abortion, there are several clinics and physicians in New Hampshire that provide this service. Equality Health Center provides surgical abortions between six and 14.6 weeks into a pregnancy as measured from the first day of the last normal menstrual period (LMP). The Center also provides abortion by medication up to 56 days LMP (8 weeks). Equality Health Center makes medication abortion services available to minors only when there is support from a parent or a responsible adult guardian.
Statistically, abortion is safest within the first 13 weeks of pregnancy. At this point, an abortion is three to 10 times safer than carrying a pregnancy to term. (Abortion is still as safe as going through childbirth, even in the later stages.) If your child is considering abortion, they may want to make an appointment at a clinic to discuss the options as soon as possible.
Should your child decide to terminate but is more than 14.6 weeks LMP, we will refer them to a clinic in Massachusetts. Unlike New Hampshire, Massachusetts has a parental consent law. If your child is under 18, she will need the written consent of a parent or guardian to terminate the pregnancy. If they cannot obtain that consent, they can petition the court through a process known as judicial bypass.
No matter what decision your child makes with regard to this pregnancy, we hope you will be open to birth control if they feel it is needed. Wishing that they would not be sexually active, or forbidding it is likely to be unhelpful in avoiding a recurrence of this situation.