Making choices around unplanned pregnancy

Understanding true responsibility to support unplanned pregnancy, termination and childbirth decision making.

Making choices around unplanned pregnancy

Unplanned pregnancy is not uncommon, in fact it’s estimated that in Australia nearly half of all pregnancies are unintended and that about half of these conceptions result in a termination.[1][2] So much comes up in a woman’s life when an unplanned pregnancy is discovered. For some, the pregnancy is welcomed, while for others the news can be daunting and laden with turmoil, regrets and/or recriminations.

Women’s access to quality information and services relating to contraception and unplanned pregnancy options can still be scarce,[3] with pressures from various sectors often quite intense. There is some understanding of why a woman may choose a termination of pregnancy if she is single, too young, or has little money. Other women feel like they have limited unplanned pregnancy options, even if they are with caring partners and in stable home environments. Furthermore, while there are many gaps in terms of women’s genuine control over their reproductive health, not often openly addressed are the other issues which arise at the same time to compound the tensions, such as a sense of blame around who was responsible for contraception, or feelings of embarrassment or shame for having got ‘caught out’ in this situation in the first place.

Why wouldn’t we as women know that no matter what our situation, that we always have pregnancy choices? And where does a woman turn to for guidance when all the surrounding conditions allow her no easy ‘out’ or validation of her feelings of uncertainty?

I had an unplanned pregnancy years ago and although in a stable marriage and living environment, I struggled with considering my options. Ideally, couples will turn to each other to explore how they feel, and together decide the next step. However, looking back and remembering how I thought and felt at that time, I can see that:

  • I was stuck in ideals about what having another baby represented, i.e. I thought another successful childbirth experience would support me to feel empowered and better about myself. I experienced a natural ‘high’ post birth of my other children and was desperate to feel that wonderful again. I believed this could only be obtained by ‘achieving’ another natural birth
  • I felt isolated, confused and desperate
  • I was closed to what my partner had to say due to my sense of resentment and blame towards him regarding the issue of contraception
  • I was a perfectionist, so felt scared of making the wrong decision. I believed there were only right or wrong decisions, therefore I needed to get things ‘right’
  • I was pressured by the religious upbringing I had as a child and had judgements about termination being ‘wrong’, yet I’ve now discovered that Roman Catholic women and non-Catholic women have equal rates of termination of pregnancy[4]
  • I thought I was liberated, yet I also thought I couldn’t easily make a decision about my own life due to the impact on another unborn life.

In fact, so strong were the pictures of myself and life I held back then, I doggedly believed there was no other option but to proceed with the pregnancy and childbirth.

The problem with allowing ideals and beliefs to dictate decision making in this way is that they promote a very false sense of security that we cling to when we have lost our way or feel challenged. Most of us are not yet raised to see how these pictures of right and wrong can lock us up in our thinking and impede clarity. We become unknowingly trapped in a corner that doesn’t guarantee the best decision will be made at any time, let alone when dealing with highly sensitive matters such as an unplanned pregnancy.

Furthermore, some couples may find the news of an unplanned pregnancy too painful to truly share, and thus problems are usually just further magnified as choices are made in isolation, away from the support and valuing of a deeply respectful discussion with a partner. In my case, my husband didn’t get a word in edgeways as I was confined in a narrow space by my resentment and hurt, which easily dismissed his input and certainly ruled out considering termination of pregnancy as an option. Clearly, a foundation of open honest communication is essential in order to deal with challenges, and I wonder how many women were taught this growing up and when entering a relationship and dealing with something as significant as an unplanned pregnancy.

"Remember that we give power and a reality to many, many things simply because we chose to believe in them, and hence live their reality."

Serge Benhayon Esoteric & Exoteric Philosophy, ed 1, p 228

Perfectionism and a fear of getting it wrong is so commonplace in our psyche as modern women.[5]

Yet no matter what decision is made, when our answers come from honestly exploring what is true for us, we actually can’t get it wrong.

We can hear and feel our bodies communicate quite clearly and loudly if we are able to stop and allow ourselves to take a few deep breaths and listen to what is being shared with us. This can feel awkward or strange at first as it is the opposite to using our minds to tell us what to do. Often, we dare not trust our inner voice, and instead we rely on our pictures of how we want life to be, and if this is done on our own, we can create isolation rather than connection within a couple at these critical times. Looking back, I now see that I needed to work with the simplicity of what was true for me, my body and us as a family and to share my thoughts and feelings along the way with my husband.

Decision making around continuation or termination of pregnancy carries lifelong ramifications, especially for women. What we don’t usually stop to consider are all the underlying ideals and beliefs we women use as platforms upon which we determine our next step, be that in relation to coping with news of an unplanned pregnancy and/or childbirth, or any other aspect of our lives. Yet the situation goes beyond our individual selves and if possible, both partners are ideally involved in deciding what comes next. Relationships are about relating, no matter what is before us, and the quality of the communication is what supports all else that follows. When planning a way forward around an unplanned pregnancy, connecting to and using our own bodies as a marker of truth and working together to look at what is coming up for each of us offers a sound basis from which to make a true choice.

There is no right or wrong decision, there is only what is true… and it is unquestionably true if it comes from love.

"Connect to your inner-most and let that tell you what truth is."

Serge Benhayon Esoteric & Exoteric Philosophy, ed 1, p 344


References:

  • [1]

    Mazza, D., et al., Current contraceptive management in Australian general practice: an analysis of BEACH data. The Medical Journal of Australia, 2012. 197(2): p. 110-114.

  • [2]

    Pregnancy Advisory Centre. Information for Students and Researchers on Unplanned Pregnancy and Abortion. Abortion Support Services 2017 [cited 2019 02/03/2019]; Available from: https://www.sahealth.sa.gov.au/wps/wcm/connect/6f28bc00443b3059bcddffb3ef7a0fe8
     /Final+Information+for+Students+and+Researchers+on+Unplanned+Pregnancy
     +and+Abortion.pdf?MOD=AJPERES&CACHEID=ROOTWORKSPACE-6f28bc00443b3059bcddffb3ef7a0fe8-m9hdA1i.

  • [3]

    World Health Organisation. Not Every Pregnancy is Welcome. The World Health Report 2005 - Make Every Mother and Child Count 2005 [cited 2019 03/03/2019]; Chapter 3]. Available from: https://www.who.int/whr/2005/chapter3/en/index3.html.

  • [4]

    Pregnancy Advisory Centre. Managing Stress Associated with Unplanned Pregnancy and Decision Making. Abortion Support Services 2018 [cited 2019 02/03/2019]; Available from: https://www.sahealth.sa.gov.au/wps/wcm/connect/28051280449111208a639e961f150c7f
     /FINAL+Managing+stress+associated+with+unplanned+pregnancy++decision
     +making+2018.pdf?MOD=AJPERES&CACHEID=ROOTWORKSPACE-28051280449111208a639e961f150c7f-mASO8JD.

  • [5]

    Psychology Today. Perfectionism. Basics 2019 [cited 2019 02/03/2019]; Available from: https://www.psychologytoday.com/au/basics/perfectionism.

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Self-loveAbortionPregnancyRelationshipsBirth

  • By Anonymous

  • Photography: Matt Paul