Finding out you’re pregnant can be a roller coaster of emotions – happiness, shock, fear, excitement, distress – and can be highly overwhelming.
Becoming a parent is a huge decision and comes with a lot of responsibility. However, the Growing Up in New Zealand study – which started just over 10 years ago and tracked 7000 Kiwi children – revealed that nearly 40% of pregnancies were unplanned. Planned or unplanned, what are your options if you do find yourself pregnant?
The first thing to do is to confirm you are pregnant using a urine test. This can be done with a home pregnancy test (available from the pharmacy or supermarket) or through your GP, family planning or sexual health clinic. It’s best to take a pregnancy test one week after you’ve missed your period because it can take time for pregnancy hormones to show up.
Once you’ve confirmed you’re pregnant, the next step is to decide what you would like to do next. Sometimes it’s an easy decision but sometimes it can be difficult or you may be in a complicated situation. It can help to talk through your options with family/whānau, friends or a healthcare professional such as your GP or family planning counsellor.
You can choose to have your baby and become a parent either with your partner or on your own. You will need to find an LMC (lead maternity carer) – either a midwife or obstetrician – to provide maternity care for you. See also our sections on pregnancy and parenting.
You can choose to continue with your pregnancy and whāngai your baby. Whāngai is the Māori tradition of a child being raised by a relative or relatives who are not the birth parents, eg, grandparents or other whānau members. It’s an informal arrangement and can be short or long term. The child usually has an ongoing relationship with its birth parents. Learn more about customary fostering and whāngai
You can choose to continue with your pregnancy but adopt your baby out to another family after birth. Adoption is a permanent legal agreement where the adoptive parents have full parental rights and responsibilities. Most adoptions in New Zealand are open, meaning the birth parents and adoptive parents know of each other and can agree to ongoing contact if desired. Learn more about the adoption process on the Orangi Tamariki website.
If you do not want to continue your pregnancy, having an abortion may be an option. Abortion in New Zealand is legal if two doctors, called certifying consultants, agree that continuing with the pregnancy would result in serious danger to your physical or mental health or that your baby would have a serious disability.
Most abortions are carried out within the first 10 weeks of pregnancy. If you would like to discuss the option of having an abortion, contact your GP or family planning doctor, who will talk you through the process.
Abortions can be carried out either medically or surgically, usually depending on how many weeks pregnant you are.
Abortion law is currently undergoing change in New Zealand, including removing it from the Crimes Act and allowing women to refer themselves for an abortion instead of needing two certifying consultants to do so. The bill has passed its first reading in Parliament and has two more readings to complete before the proposed changes become law.
What can I think about to help me decide?
Family, relationships, school, work, money, life goals, health, safety, and personal beliefs – most people think carefully about many of these things before making a decision about a pregnancy.
Consider how you feel when you think about parenting, whāngai, adoption and abortion. What do you want for your future, and for your family or future family?
It may be helpful to ask yourself the following questions:
- How would my decision affect my future?
- How would my decision affect my family or other children?
- Am I ready to go through pregnancy and childbirth?
- Am I ready to raise a child right now?
- Do I have strong personal or religious beliefs about abortion, parenting or adoption?
- Is anyone pressuring me to make a certain choice?
- Will my family, my friends and my partner support my decision?
It may also help to imagine having a conversation with your future self, say in 10 years time, and consider what advice they may have for you. This can help you gain perspective on a situation that may feel overwhelming at this point in time.
There are lots of factors to consider, and it’s totally normal to have many different feelings when you’re thinking about your choices. Lots of people lean on others for support and advice as they’re making their decision. It’s good to choose people who you know are understanding and won’t judge you.
Who can I talk with about my options?
Talking with your partner, someone in your family, a friend, a trusted advisor or a counsellor about pregnancy options can be helpful when you’re trying to figure out what to do.
No one should pressure you into making any decision about your pregnancy, no matter what. Only you know what’s right for yourself at the moment. So getting the info and support you need from people who’ll give you the real facts and will support you is important.
Free professional counselling for those considering abortion is available to all New Zealand residents and can be accessed via referral from your GP or through abortion clinics. You can also find a counsellor yourself to talk about how you are feeling, discuss all your options and support you to make the decision that is right for you.
If you're feeling anxious and overwhelmed, or just need someone to talk to, free call or text 1737 anytime, 24 hours a day to speak to or text with a trained counsellor.
Pregnancy options Family Planning NZ
How to find a therapist or mental health professional Mental Health Foundation, NZ