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Unplanned Pregnancy

Many sexually active women wonder at some point whether they may be pregnant. The most obvious sign of pregnancy is a missed period (although a missed period does not necessarily mean you are pregnant). Breast tenderness, nausea, tiredness and frequent urination are also common signs of pregnancy. If you have missed a period and think there is a chance you may be pregnant, take a test. If you are pregnant, the sooner you know, the more time you have to think about the options that are available to you.

  • Testing
  • If the Result is Positive
  • Terminating a Pregnancy
  • Keeping the baby
  • Adoption
  • Your Rights

Testing

Home pregnancy test kits are easy to use and you will know within minutes whether or not you are pregnant. The hormone present in the urine that indicates pregnancy (hCG) can usually be detected by pregnancy tests on the first day of your missed period so this is a good time to do the test. Some very sensitive tests can detect it even sooner, although research shows that these early results are less reliable. If the result of your pregnancy test is negative but you still have not had your period, you should wait a few days and do another test or visit your doctor. If you are not pregnant, your doctor will be able to look into possibilities as to why you are not getting your period.

Pregnancy tests can be purchased at any chemist or you can get also get a free test from CUSU by contacting any member of the Students' Unions' Advice Service. Alternatively, you can order one confidentially by filling in the following web form. You can also ask your college Women's Officer or Welfare Officer for a pregnancy test. For more information on pregnancy tests have a look at the NHS website.

If the result is positive

Finding out that you or your partner is pregnant can stir up lots of feelings whether the pregnancy was planned or unplanned. It is important to look at what options are available to you in both scenarios so that you can feel you have made an informed decision. Ultimately the decision is yours to make but it can be helpful to have a caring friend who will support you in whatever course of action you choose to take. If you have a partner and they are supportive, you may wish to share the news with them as well as discuss the options. If you prefer to talk to someone outside of your social/family circle, you can contact the CUSU Women's Officer (womens@cusu.cam.ac.uk) or the Students' Unions' Advice Service (see contact details). A wide variety of services are available to help women make the decision that is the most appropriate to them. Find out more at the Family Planning Association website.

Terminating a pregnancy

There are many reasons why you may decide to terminate your pregnancy. It may be because of your personal circumstances, because your health is at risk or there is a high probability that the baby will have a severe medical condition. In the UK, abortions can be carried out during the first 24 weeks of pregnancy but most are carried out much earlier than this, usually before week 12. Certain criteria have to be met in order for an abortion to be carried out legally in this country. More information can be found on the NHS website here.

In Cambridge, most abortions are carried out at Addenbrooke's Hospital. If you make the decision to have an abortion and you would like the CUSU Women's Officer (womens@cusu.cam.ac.uk) or someone from the Students' Unions' Advice Service to accompany you, do not hesitate to get in touch (see contact details). For more information on abortion have a look at the Abortion Rights UK website.

Risks

As with any medical procedure, abortion carries a risk of complications. Statistics show that abortions carried out in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy are very safe. Still, it is essential however well you feel that you attend the post-abortion check-up arranged for you. If you are worried about anything, do not hesitate to go back to your GP or to the hospital. To find out more about abortion risks later in pregnancy, see the NHS webpage on the subject.

Keeping the baby

Although bringing up a child on your own or with a partner is an enormous commitment, it can also be hugely rewarding and fulfilling. It is important that you consider how having a baby will impact on your present and future life. There are many student parents in Cambridge who have managed to balance study and parenthood successfully. You may wish to think about a support network (a partner or family and friends who may be able to help you), childcare options, finances, accommodation, social life, relationships etc. You might find support from your Tutor and as always, you can go to the CUSU Women's Officer (womens@cusu.cam.ac.uk) and Students' Unions' Advice Service (see contact details). You may find it useful to contact the University's Childcare Coordinator (childcare@admin.cam.ac.uk) and to visit the Childcare Office website where you will be able to find lots of information as well as a guide for student parents. Many pregnant students face pressure to take a year out of University. This may or may not be the best option for you; decide for yourself and make sure your Director of Studies and Tutor know how you feel.

Having a baby

Whatever you decide to do after the birth, it is important to take advantage of the ante-natal (before birth) care on offer. This is usually through your GP in conjunction with the local maternity hospital and your health visitor who can give you advice on diet, dental care, relaxation classes and post natal care. Throughout your pregnancy, it's important to remember that support is available, even if it doesn't come from your partner. A friend who is concerned about your wellbeing can be invaluable and would be welcomed at the birth should you wish them to be present. To find out more have a look at the NHS website.

Adoption

Some women who unexpectedly find themselves pregnant decide to continue with the pregnancy and place the baby up for adoption. If you are thinking about adoption, you should get expert advice as soon as possible. There is lots of information available about adoption as well as resources on the Coram BAAF website. Adoption is the transfer of legal rights and duties towards a child by its birth-parent(s) to another family. Adoption societies will counsel pregnant women who are considering adoption. You can also contact the University Counseling Service if you would like to explore your feelings about placing the baby up for adoption. You can also speak to the CUSU Women's Officer (womens@cusu.cam.ac.uk) or the Students' Unions' Advice Service (see contact details).

Miscarriage

There are a range of websites and services that provide information and support for those affected by miscarriage.

The Miscarriage Association
The Miscarriage Association website provides information for those who are affected by miscarriage, molar pregnancy or ectopic pregnancy. They also have a helpline: 01924 200799

Petals
Petals provides a funded, specialised counselling service at Addenbrookes Hospital in Cambridge. The service supports parents affected by miscarriage and other complications surrounding pregnancy.

The Rosie bereavement team: The Rosie bereavement support team are a team of specialist midwives at Addenbrookes Hospital who can support those affected by miscarriage. Contact the confidential phone line on 01223 217619 or e-mail rosie.bereavementservice@addenbrookes.nhs.uk