Being a teenager and finding out you are expecting a baby, especially if the pregnancy is unintended and not wanted, can put enormous stress on you and your family. However, there is support available to help you to make the wisest choice for you at this time.
Finding out you are pregnant — or that you will become a teenager father — can bring up many different emotions. You might feel confused and scared, or happy and excited. All these feelings are normal and okay. Your feelings will probably also change while you are thinking about your options.
Your parents will have their own feelings and wishes, but it is your life and things usually work out best if parents offer information and support but do not try to force you to follow their wishes.
What are my choices?
If you are pregnant, options for you to consider include:
- continue the pregnancy and raise your child with a partner
- continue the pregnancy and raise your child on your own
- continue the pregnancy followed by adoption
- end the pregnancy (termination)
It is important that you have adequate information about all these pregnancy options before you make a decision.
Unfortunately, many teenagers delay seeking advice when they are pregnant, perhaps hoping that it is not true. If you choose to continue with the pregnancy, it’s important that you get medical attention and do not delay important antenatal care. Teenagers have higher rates of complications in pregnancy and childbirth, and are at higher risk of postnatal depression. It’s also important that you eat properly and stop drinking and smoking during your pregnancy. Talk to a doctor who can discuss your pregnancy in the strictest confidence.
If you choose termination (abortion), a delay in confirming the pregnancy can affect the type of termination available. For example, medical termination, or taking a pill to terminate the pregnancy, is only performed for pregnancies of less than 9 weeks. While it’s best to have a termination as early as possible, it’s also important to take the time to make the best decision for you.
How you go about getting an abortion and the age at which you are allowed to make your own decision, without your parents, depends on where you live. The law is different in each state and territory. Speak to your doctor about this. If you decide to have an abortion, you usually need to have it before you are 14 weeks pregnant but it may be able to be done up to around 20 weeks and 24 weeks in some states.
Take the time to think
Different issues will influence you and affect the amount of time needed to make your decision. The following questions may help you work out what is the best decision at this time in your life.
- Do you have support from family or a partner?
- Can you work things out through the tough times?
- What does being a parent mean to you?
- Who can you call on to offer you support emotionally and financially?
- How will this decision affect your plans for the future?
- Where do you see yourself in 1, 2 and 5 years’ time?
It’s your right to have:
- confidential care
- safe, non-judgmental care
- respect, whatever choice you make
If you need advice or someone to talk to, please call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby on 1800 882 436.
Issues for teenage parents
Being a parent can make it harder to get an education or find a job. Juggling the responsibilities of being a parent with work, school and a social life can be tiring. It can also be very difficult to get child care, and almost impossible to get affordable child care. These difficulties can make it hard to cope financially, and can make you feel lonely and apart from your family and friends.
On the other hand, as a teenage parent, you can find you have all the energy in the world to keep up with toddlers. You can also be better than older parents at dealing with the new lifestyle of being a parent, such as getting little or no sleep. However, it can be a struggle to face parenthood while still physically developing yourself.
Other challenges of being a teenage parent include giving your children enough attention while worrying about finishing your education, working or finding a job.
Young men and pregnancy
Young men often receive blame for the pregnancy but little information, counselling and support. If this is your situation, you may need help to accept and support the young woman’s right to decide the outcome of the pregnancy, and what her choice means for you. You may also need support to talk about their reaction to the pregnancy, how you feel about future involvement, and how to deal with family and friends’ responses.
There are several other issues you may need to consider:
- If the young woman decides to keep the baby, it raises the question of what involvement you want and your legal responsibilities to help support the baby.
- If your name is on the birth certificate, or if you are presumed to be the father (for example, because you are living with the mother), you will be liable to help support the baby financially.
- If you do not believe you are the father, you may need to get legal advice. You can contact Legal Aid in your state or territory to find out more.
- It is possible to have a DNA test to check if someone is the father of a baby. This test uses blood (or other body tissues) from you, the baby and preferably the mother as well. The test can be done at any age and is now very accurate. Talk with your doctor to find out how to do this.
Issues for parents
Your parents may have many anxieties that come from concern for you:
- They may experience shock, disappointment, anxiety, anger and sometimes a sense of guilt or responsibility.
- They may feel like they have lost their dreams for you.
- Some of your options could go against their values.
- They may feel disappointed if you do not tell them about the pregnancy for a long time.
- They may be concerned about what friends and other family members think.
Major life events do not just disappear, and whatever the decision, there may be doubts and sadness for some time.
Resources and support
If you’re a teenage parent, there are ways to help yourself and your child. Getting support from your family, friends and services in the community can help you cope:
- See if there’s a way you can finish school if you haven’t already. This might mean studying at night while a partner, friend or parent minds your child. In the long run, having an education will help with your chances of finding a job, and studying can help you to feel less lonely.
- If you can stay with your parents while your child is young, this may help you deal with the pressures of caring for your child or coping financially. Your parents might also be able to give you some support when you need it, and even share some tips from when you were a baby.
- If you’re on your own or living away from your family, find out what sorts of financial support you can get through Services Australia (Centrelink) to help with living expenses and rent.
- Contact your local community centre about support groups for parents. These groups can provide emotional support as well as information on child development and health care.
- See if your local council can put you in touch with a counselling service. Counselling can help parents with their own issues as well as those associated with being a parent at a young age.
- Speak to different experts that you come in contact with — such as your doctor, community health nurse or other experts associated with child care — to learn about creating the best home environment for your child. They can also help you learn about topics such as nutrition, health and emotional development.
- The government jobactive service may be able to help you find work or training if you’re struggling.
- If you need advice or someone to talk to, please call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby on 1800 882 436.
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Last reviewed: October 2021