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Thinking About Parenting

Millions of women face unplanned pregnancies every year. If you are deciding what to do about an unplanned pregnancy, you have a lot to think about. You have three options — abortion, adoption, and parenting.

Whether you're thinking about parenting, you're helping a woman decide if parenting is right for her, or you're just curious about parenting, you may have many questions. Here are some of the most common questions we hear women ask when considering becoming a parent. We hope you find the answers helpful.

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    How Can I Know If Parenting Is the Right Option for Me?

    We all have many important decisions to make in life. What to do about an unplanned pregnancy is an important and common decision faced by women. In fact, about half of all women in the U.S. have an unplanned pregnancy at some point in their lives. About 6 out of 10 women with unplanned pregnancies decide to continue their pregnancies.

    Every woman's situation is different, and only you can decide what is best in your case. If you're trying to decide if parenting is the right option for you, you may find it helpful to list the advantages and disadvantages of having a child. Think about what advantages or disadvantages are most important to you. Consider your feelings and values about raising a child, and what you want for your life and for your family or future family.

    Some Things to Ask Yourself If You Are Thinking About Raising a Child

    • Am I ready to help a child feel wanted and loved?
    • Am I ready to cope with a tighter budget, less time for myself, and more stress?
    • Do I have the support of family and friends?
    • Am I ready to accept responsibility for all my child's needs?
    • Would I prefer to have a child at another time?
    • Is anyone pressuring me to continue or end the pregnancy?
    • How do I feel about other women who have children from unplanned pregnancies?
    • Can I afford to have a child?
    • What would it mean for my future and my family's future if I had a child now?
    • How important is it to me what other people will think about my decision?
    • Can I handle the experience of pregnancy and raising a child?

    If you are already a parent, ask yourself how bringing another child into your family will affect your other children.

    Think about what your answers mean to you. You may want to discuss your answers with your partner, someone in your family, a friend, a trusted religious adviser, or a counselor.

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    What Are Some of the Advantages and Disadvantages of Parenting?

    Though parenting is hard work, it brings many rewards. Being a parent can be exciting and deeply rewarding. It can help you grow, understand yourself better, and enhance your life. Parents can feel delight at their child's accomplishments and the love and bond they share. Many people say that parenting brings great happiness and a deeper understanding of themselves.

    But parents often give up a lot for their children. Meeting a child's needs can be very challenging. Parents deal with less sleep and less time to do the things they need and want to do. Having a baby is expensive, and many people find it hard to support their children. Having children can also put a parent's school plans or career on hold.

    Many people find that having a child can test even the strongest relationship. And if you are single parenting, you may find it more difficult to find and keep a relationship.

    If you already have children, you know firsthand both the joys and challenges parenting can bring. A child will change your life, whether it is your first child or not. If you don't have any children, talking with other parents about their daily lives with their children may help give you an idea about what you could expect.

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    Who Can Help Me Decide?

    Most women look to their husbands, partners, families, health care providers, clergy, or someone else they trust for support as they make their decision about an unplanned pregnancy. Even though the decision about what to do about your pregnancy is up to you, most women find they'd also like to talk with trusted people in their lives to help them make up their minds.

    If you need help deciding, specially trained educators at women's health clinics — like your Planned Parenthood health center — can talk it through with you. They can talk with you in private or you may bring someone with you if you wish. When looking for someone to talk with about your options, beware of so-called "crisis pregnancy centers." They are run by people who are against abortion, and who will not give you information about all of your options.

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    How Soon Do I Have to Decide?

    Whether you choose adoption or to become a parent, if there is a chance that you will continue the pregnancy, you should begin prenatal care as soon as possible. You should have a medical exam early in your pregnancy — and regularly throughout your pregnancy — to make sure that you are healthy and the pregnancy is normal.

    Even though most women have safe and healthy pregnancies, there are certain risks of pregnancy for a woman. They range from discomforts, such as nausea, fatigue, and aches and pains, to more serious risks, such as blood clots, high blood pressure, and diabetes. In extremely rare cases, complications can be fatal. That's why early and regular prenatal care is very important.

    It may be important to take your time and think carefully about your decision. But you may not want to wait too long. If you are considering abortion, you should know that abortion is very safe, but the risks increase the longer a pregnancy goes on.

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    Can I Meet a Child's Needs?

    Children have many needs. Your child will depend on you — for food, shelter, safety, affection, and guidance.

    Parenting requires lots of love, energy, and patience. It is often complicated and frustrating. Your child's needs will constantly change and so will your ability to meet those needs. There will be times when you may feel that you are not doing a good job at parenting. To feel good about being a parent, it must be what you want to do — for a long time.

    If you are thinking about becoming a parent, you may wonder if you are prepared. Do you have what you might need to take care of a child?

    • Time — children can put your school plans or career on hold.
    • Energy and care — children need parents who are loving, patient, and flexible.
    • Planning — having children takes daily planning, as well as long-term planning for the next stages of the child's life.
    • Material things and money — children need clothes, diapers, food, and health care, and they often need day care.

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    What Support Will I Need If I Have a Child?

    Parenting is hard work — whether you are single and parenting or parenting with a partner, and whether it is your first child or another child in the family. A child requires nonstop care, and having a partner or other family member to share the work of parenting can make the job much easier.

    New parents, whether they are single or in a couple, need support from lots of places. Worries about money and time are common for parents, and every family needs support now and then. Sometimes that might be grocery shopping, hand-me-down clothes, babysitting time, or just someone to talk with.

    Single Parenting

    Many people find themselves single parenting, or choose to become single parents. Single parenting can be very challenging, but it's certainly not impossible.

    If you're thinking of single parenting, talk with family and friends about the help you will need. Find out how much time, energy, and money the people in your life are willing to give to you and your baby. If you will need money, be realistic about how much your friends and family can give. Some people will be able to help a lot, while others will be only able to help a little. If you need government support, keep in mind that it will only cover part of what you will need.

    But being a single parent has its advantages, too. Because you will not have to make compromises with a partner, you can raise the child as you wish — with your values, principles, and beliefs.

    Parenting With a Partner

    A partnership can provide parents with much-needed support. Many couples find great satisfaction in sharing the responsibility of raising a child. They find their love and commitment to each other is made deeper by their shared love for their child.

    However, parenting can also put stress on relationships. Parents may disagree about what is best for a child. If you have a baby, your relationship with your partner will change. Joint parenting takes good communication and a solid commitment in hard times.

    When Extra Support Is Needed

    Women often have a wide range of emotions after giving birth. The joy of a new baby can be mixed with feelings of sadness and anxiety, and feelings of being overwhelmed. Childbirth causes sudden shifts in hormones that can cause these feelings. You may need some extra support if you suffer from the "baby blues" during your baby's first few days or weeks.

    Long-term depression is more common if a woman has a history of emotional problems or if she does not have supportive people in her life. Women should seek help from a health care provider or counselor if depression lasts more than two weeks or keeps them from doing what they need to do each day.

    Overall, having lots of support from other people will be a big help to you if you decide to become a parent. Thinking about how much support you can expect from other people can be very important as you decide what to do about an unplanned pregnancy.

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