Unplanned pregnancy is very common, with an estimated 200,000 pregnancies occurring in Australia every year. Not all, however, are unwanted. In some cases, the woman, though surprised, looks forward to raising the child. In other cases, the news presents a crisis. When a woman does not want to become a parent, her pregnancy options may include abortion or adoption.
A number of government and community counselling services offer information on pregnancy options, which can help a woman make this often difficult decision.
Pregnancy issues to think about
An unplanned pregnancy can make a woman think about a number of complex issues such as:
- her feelings about parenthood, abortion and adoption
- her health and age
- the needs of her existing children (if she has any)
- her relationship with her partner
- her career options
- her financial situation
- her life goals
- her religious beliefs
- her moral values.
Professional counselling for pregnancy
When faced with an unplanned or unintended pregnancy, deciding what to do is not always easy. Talking with family members and friends can help. It is important that the woman makes her own decision and does not let pressure from other people affect her own judgement.
It can help to talk with an independent, trained counsellor who can provide up-to-date information on each pregnancy option to support a woman in making a free and fully informed decision. However, most women are able to make a decision about an unplanned pregnancy without professional help.
Pregnancy options include:
Option of parenting
When faced with an unplanned pregnancy, some women choose to continue with the pregnancy and then raise the child.
Prenatal (pregnancy) care is extremely important for the health of the woman and the unborn child. The woman also needs to decide quite early in her pregnancy where and how she wants to have the baby. There are a number of childbirth options to choose from. A doctor can provide more information and referral to support services that can help.
Factors that may influence a woman’s decision of whether or not to become a parent include:
- her health and life circumstances
- any previous experiences of pregnancy or childbirth
- her feelings about certain types of care
- where she lives (not all options are available in all regions).
Depending on the woman’s relationship with her partner, her parenting options may include:
- shared parenting as a married, separated or de facto couple
- single parenting while living with family or independently.
For those who are having difficulty deciding, talking with an independent, trained counsellor can help in understanding each option.
Parenting is a skill that has to be learned and relearned as a child grows through different life stages. A number of government and community support services are available to help parents through each stage. A doctor can provide more information and referral to support services that can help.
Option of abortion
Some women decide to terminate (end) their pregnancy by having an abortion. Estimates suggest that almost one third of all unplanned pregnancies in Australia are terminated. Abortion laws are different for each Australian state and territory, but early abortion (up to 14 weeks) is available Australia wide, and later abortion is available in most states and territories.
Abortion is a medical or surgical procedure where the foetus or embryo is removed or expelled from the uterus (womb). Most abortions are performed during the first trimester of pregnancy (up to 12 weeks), but some may be performed in the second trimester (12 to 24 weeks) or, in rare circumstances, in the third trimester (24 to 36 weeks).
Studies show most women who have had an abortion feel they made the right decision and are unlikely to experience long-term psychological or emotional problems. In most cases, emotional distress peaks before the procedure and resolves soon after.
Option of adoption
A relatively small number of women continue with the pregnancy and then give the baby up for adoption. The adoptive parents then become the child’s legal parents, and the birth parents voluntarily give up all their legal rights and responsibilities in relation to the child. There is the opportunity for the birth parents to choose to maintain some level of contact with the child.
Where to get help
- Your doctor
- Royal Women’s Hospital Pregnancy Advisory Service Tel. (03) 8345 3063
- Women’s health centre
- Family Planning Victoria Tel. (03) 9257 0100 or freecall 1800 013 952
- Family Planning Victoria’s Action Centre (for people aged under 25) Tel. (03) 9660 4700 or freecall 1800 013 952
- Victorian Department of Human Services Adoption and Permanent Care Program:
- Eastern Metropolitan Region Tel. (03) 9843 6413
- Southern Region Tel. (03) 9521 5666
- Barwon South Western Region Tel. (03) 5226 4540
- Northern Metropolitan Region Tel. (03) 9479 0558
- Western Region Tel. (03) 9396 7400
- Gippsland Region Tel. (03) 5133 9998
- Grampians Region Tel. (03) 5337 3333
- Loddon Mallee Region Tel. (03) 5440 1100
- Hume Region Tel. (03) 5832 1500
- Parentline Victoria Tel. 13 22 89
Things to remember
- Pregnancy options include parenting, abortion and adoption.
- A doctor can provide more information about pregnancy options and referral to support services that can help.
- It is important that the woman makes her own decision about which pregnancy option is best for her.
This page has been produced in consultation with and approved by:
Family Planning Victoria
Content on this website is provided for education and information purposes only. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your doctor or other registered health professional. Content has been prepared for Victorian residents and wider Australian audiences, and was accurate at the time of publication. Readers should note that, over time, currency and completeness of the information may change. All users are urged to always seek advice from a registered health care professional for diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.