Being a pregnant teen can be overwhelming, confusing, and scary. You are not alone; there are around 500,000 pregnant teens in the USA every year. As a pregnant teen, you might be wondering how to break the news to your boyfriend and your parents, what you will choose for your pregnancy, how this will affect you finishing school, what your friends will say about you, or about how you will be able to provide for your baby. The good news is that as a pregnant teen, there are resources, services, and support just for you. The first step is to begin care for your pregnancy and to seek help. Maybe you haven’t confirmed your pregnancy yet, but have missed a period or have questions about your symptoms.
Our toll-free teen pregnancy hotline, 1-800-672-2296, is here just for you. Our pregnancy educators are ready to help you figure out your chances of pregnancy, refer you to a free and confidential pregnancy testing center, or offer you a safe place to talk about your pregnancy options.
This article will guide you through different aspects of what it is like being a pregnant teen: finding out if you are indeed pregnant, breaking the news to your boyfriend and parents (and tips on how to talk with them), making a choice for your pregnancy, resources available to you from pregnancy centers and government programs, challenges that pregnant teens face, health during your pregnancy, and much more. We’ve included links to some of our other articles for more in-depth information.
Am I really pregnant?
Before you psych yourself out, the first thing you need to do (if you haven’t already) is to find out if you are pregnant or not. Don’t assume you are a pregnant teen just because you missed your period. The only way to do this accurately is to take a pregnancy test. You’ll want to wait until after you miss your period or have abnormally short or light bleeding to take either a blood or urine pregnancy test. You can purchase a urine test at your local pharmacy or retail store, or go to a local testing center for a free one. Blood tests must be done at a clinic or by your doctor. Visit our Pregnancy Symptoms or Pregnancy Tests pages for more information. As a potentially pregnant teen, you can find a free testing center by either calling us at 1-800-672-2296. After you have a positive pregnancy test, your next step is to make sure the pregnancy is viable (possible to carry to term) and not an ectopic pregnancy or a probable miscarriage. You can do this with an ultrasound. Many of the free testing centers also offer free limited (nondiagnostic) ultrasounds, or your doctor can perform a full one. If the pregnancy is viable, then you have some decisions to make (see below).
Sharing the News as a Pregnant Teen
Once you confirm the pregnancy, telling others that you are pregnant is probably going to be very difficult. However, it is crucial to do so because it is by telling people you can find support and get access to care. It may start by making a confidential toll-free call to our helpline. Our pregnancy educators have been the first person that someone has told many times, so if you are a pregnant teen, please don’t hesitate to call us at 1-800-672-2296. You may also find it helpful to speak with a confidential educator at a pregnancy center or through your school nurse or counseling office. As hard as it may be, you will need to plan on sharing the news with at least one of your parents. As a pregnant teen, you are probably still living at home or still financially dependent on your parent(s), they will likely be the one(s) helping and supporting you in whatever decision you make for your pregnancy.
Talking to your parents
Most pregnant teens are scared to share the news with their family. We have a few suggestions on breaking the news to your parent(s):
- Realize that this was probably not their plan for their teenage daughter; try not to be defensive about how you ended up in this situation. If you are humble and apologize for disobeying their rules/expectations, then you and your parents may be able to start with a cleaner slate.
- Your parent(s) are undoubtedly going to ask you who the father is, and they are going to want to know if he plans to help you care for a child. If you have a relationship with the baby’s father and would like to continue it, ask him what he thinks/how he feels so that you can have an answer for your parent(s), as well as for yourself.
- Most parents will consider a teen pregnancy irresponsible; so, show them that you are taking responsibility for your actions by coming up with a plan. These plans don’t have to be set in stone but make sure you have concrete ideas about prenatal care, how you will provide (jobs), if/how you plan to finish school, child care, where you will live, and the list goes on. This shows them that you are thinking ahead and behaving responsibly.
- Your parents may have an idea about what choice they think you should make for your pregnancy. Remember that ultimately, it is up to you. If you’ve already made your decision, let them know. However, don’t be afraid to discuss with them as to why you’ve chosen what you did (they are going to want to hear your reasons anyway).
- Your parent(s) may bring up some points that you had not thought about, so be prepared to LISTEN, too!
- Don’t roll your eyes, storm off, or tune them out! They have been through at least one pregnancy before (you) and undoubtedly have some helpful information and wise insights to share with you.
- Try not to set your expectations too high or too low. Not every “I’m pregnant” talk with parents is going to go well, and not all of them are going to go badly. Remember, you won’t know precisely how they’ll react until you break the news (even if you say that you’re sure of it). Some parents will be angry at first, but loosen up when it gets time for them to meet their grandson or granddaughter. Plus, they’re going to find out eventually because it’s quite challenging to hide in the second half of pregnancy. If you wait until then to tell them and get care, that can be dangerous for you and the baby.
As a first time pregnant teen, this will be the first time you have this talk with your parents. More than likely, this is their first time to talk about teen pregnancy as well.
Talking to your boyfriend
As a newly confirmed pregnant teen, you might also be wondering how to talk to your boyfriend. It’s possible you’ve already been talking to him about the possibility, or you are going to take a test with him present. If you take one on your own, here are some suggestions on how to tell him. We’ve also included thoughts on how to talk about what you (and he) wish for the pregnancy. As a pregnant teen, this is probably your first pregnancy. Remember, this is most likely his first time as well. Don’t forget to ask his opinion too – ultimately, the decision is yours, but the choice you make here could make or break your relationship. The baby does have half his DNA too!
- Try to break the news as calmly as possible in person and not over a phone call or text (if you are long-distance, then a video call might be a better option). If you aren’t sure of what his reaction will be, it might be helpful to have the conversation in a public place but make it a place that both of you feel comfortable.
- Many guys will face some denial about the situation initially. It might be a good idea to either bring the positive pregnancy test/results with you if you took one on your own, or to bring a new test and offer to take with him present. This way, he can see immediate proof.
- He may need a few minutes to process what you’re telling him. You can take this time to explain what you are thinking or feeling about the situation, or you can give him some time to think in silence.
- Don’t assume that he already knew that pregnancy was on the table – he might not have had any clue at all. Try not to hold this against him, as he might not have noticed anything different.
- Try to keep calm throughout the whole conversation. He’s the one getting hit with big news at this moment, he may not be as emotionally controlled. (That doesn’t excuse any bad behavior or attitude he might have, but it may explain some of it.)
- Don’t throw the blame all on him (unless intercourse was forced – in which case please talk to your parents and the police) – you both made the adult decision to have sex, and thus both of you are now facing the consequences. Try not to be defensive either, as that never helps a conversation go better.
- Try to be as clear as possible when you explain what you’re thinking or feeling about the pregnancy. What choice for the pregnancy are you leaning toward? Why? Have you told your parents? When did conception likely occur? Vagueness can lead to misunderstandings and then arguments, so avoid that if possible.
- Talking and decisions about the future of your relationship or the possibility of parenting together may not happen in this initial conversation. You both may be too full of emotion and shock to be able to make educated, long-term decisions at the moment. Don’t feel pressured to get all your plans finalized in this one conversation, and don’t pressure him to decide what he wants right away.
- If the situation escalates and you fear for your safety or for his safety, excuse yourself and take some time to calm down or to let him settle his emotions. Don’t leave without an explanation; let him know that you’d like to continue the conversation later when you both are at a better emotional level.
You are more than likely a pregnant teen for the first time, and the same goes for him as well. If your relationship has been around for a while and you both know each other’s parents, you may want to plan a family meeting after you initially share the news with your boyfriend. Ideally, you both would have already made a decision about the pregnancy and about your relationship (how it will continue or if it will not).
Pregnancy Decisions as a Pregnant Teen
It is quite possible that you are questioning what to do with this pregnancy. Will you carry the baby to term, consider adoption, or look at termination through an abortion procedure? The first thing to remember is that it is your pregnancy – no one should pressure you into anything. Whether it is a parent, friends, your boyfriend, or some other person/group, no one should make you feel that you have to make the decision they want you to make. The options are there whether anyone tells you about them or not. You may find someone who tells you that you are a horrible person/”going to hell” if you abort, and that is not true. You may get someone else who tells you that it is only a blob of tissue, which isn’t true either, with the heart starting to beat by day 21. There have been studies showing that a majority of women who get abortions feel that they didn’t have enough information to make an informed choice for their pregnancy. It is important to know all the resources available to you – without being aware of these, you may falsely think that there is no help for someone in your position.
Choice 1: Parenting
You’re young, might not have a job yet or have graduated from high school, but that does not mean that you have no chance as a parent. Parenting can be very challenging but also extremely rewarding. There are many successful teen moms whose children grow up happily and normally. There are a lot of programs that can help you get on your feet and provide for a child, such as Medicaid for prenatal care, WIC for help eating healthy and for baby formula/breastfeeding assistance, food stamps to help you keep food on the table, housing assistance to bring your living expenses down, and much more. Here are a few topics on parenting that you may find helpful:
- different types of parenting
- how to be a single parent
- things you need as you prepare for your due date
With parenting, you’ll have to speak to your boyfriend and your family about what this will look like. Will, your boyfriend, help you raise the child, or will you have to pursue child support? Will you be able to stay with your parents or have to get your place? There’s a lot to think about when considering parenthood, but it is possible to sort through all these questions. Check out our Issues & Challenges article to learn more about the journey through pregnancy.
Choice 2: Adoption
There is also the option for adoption. Many teenagers feel that they cannot give a child the life they desire for them, and that is where adoption comes in. There are a lot of couples that are in a more stable time in life that are not able to parent children for one reason or another who desperately want a child. You could help make that a reality for these hopeful parents! Plus, the adoption agency or adopting family will typically cover the medical costs of your pregnancy. You have the option to keep in contact with the adoptive family, or to go through the adoption anonymously. Here are some other topics you might find useful:
- adoption in the eyes of the birth parent(s)
- questions to ask yourself when considering adoption
- different types of adoption
- financial help with adoption
- And much more here.
We also encourage you to sit down with an adoption agency or professional to get a better idea of what adoption might look like for you.
Choice 3: Abortion
Abortion is the process of terminating a pregnancy. Depending on the age of the baby, there are different procedures available to you through medical or surgical abortions. Many women who choose abortion do so because they do not feel like there is any other option for their pregnancy. We encourage you to never decide out of fear, or because you feel forced to because of your situation or people around you! Before you choose, learn more about the options and resources that are available. For more information on abortion and the different procedures and the associated risks, check out these various topics about abortion:
- Different abortion procedures
- Follow-up care after an abortion
- possible physical side effects
- possible emotional side effects
Remember that if you are a minor, you may need your parents to sign off on an abortion procedure. Contact a teen pregnancy center in your area to find out more about the laws in your state.
Help for a Pregnant Teen
As we noted earlier, there are approximately 500,000 new pregnant teenagers every year, meaning there is a need for specialized care. You may not know it, but there are usually school programs for pregnant teens allowing you to finish school. There are maternity homes just for teenagers to have a special place to get away and receive care, especially if there are any problems at home.
Abortion used to be the number one option selected by teenagers, but more and more young women are discovering that they can overcome the odds and succeed, either as a parent or through adoption. It is not easy, but there is help, resources, and support specifically for pregnant teens. You have to start somewhere to find what is available to you! That is why we suggest visiting a pregnancy center, talking to your parents, or calling our helpline so that you have an idea of a good next step toward choosing your pregnancy, or so that you can get information about helpful resources.
Prevention and Statistics
Though teen pregnancy rates in the United States have steadily dropped since 1991 and are now at record lows (reaching a new record low each year since 2009), they are still higher than the rates in many other developed countries. The latest data from the CDC revealed an average of 22.3 births per 1000 females (age 15-19) in 2015. It is important to remember that this number does not include aborted babies and pregnancy losses, and thus, the pregnancy rate (vs. birth rate) is higher than 22.3/1000. Around 30% of teen pregnancies end in abortion. Some people have postulated that increased availability of abortions is to blame for fewer births from teen pregnancies, but the abortion rates have stayed relatively the same. Many researchers believe that access to birth control/contraception is the reason for this drop in teen pregnancies. Don’t want to be a pregnant teen? Whether that means condoms, education about ovulation/fertility, or hormonal birth control, no method is 100% effective at preventing pregnancy and/or preventing the spread of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). The only entirely effective way to avoid pregnancy and diseases is to abstain from sexual intercourse and contact (abstinence). For more information on birth control and natural family planning, please check out the topics below:
- Natural family planning (NFP)/fertility awareness
- Male condoms and female condoms
- Withdrawal/”pull-out method”
- Cervical cap and diaphragm
- Hormonal birth control:
- Non-hormonal copper IUD
- Emergency contraceptives/”morning after” pill
Hormonal birth control (including the morning after pill) works in three different ways: (1) prevents ovulation/release of egg, (2) thickens cervical mucus, making it more difficult for sperm to travel through to reach an egg, and (3) makes implantation of a fertilized egg difficult by thinning the uterine lining. Ethical considerations mostly come into play with the third action – with the belief that life begins at conception, hormonal birth control technically could terminate a pregnancy in its earliest stages. So, as you make your choices about how to prevent pregnancy, consider these actions.
Want to Know More?
Compiled using information from the following sources:
1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): NCHS Data Briefing “Continued Declines in Teen Births in the United States, 2015.”
2. Guttmacher Institute: Teen Pregnancy (United States).
3. Guttmacher Institute: “U.S. Teen Pregnancy, Birth, and Abortion Rates Reach the Lowest Levels in Almost 4 Decades.”