If you’re facing an unexpected pregnancy and trying to sort through your options, you might feel overwhelmed, confused about what to do, and even alone. But you’re not alone. While the rate of unintended pregnancies has improved in the last couple of decades, it still hovers around 45 percent – meaning nearly half of all pregnancies are unplanned.
This is a common scenario for women, but common doesn’t make it easy to navigate. Beyond the pregnancy itself, you might have a lot going on in your life, things you can’t just set aside because of a positive pregnancy test.
Know, too, that even women who plan or expect a pregnancy can go through phases of different emotions – shock, disbelief, joy, sadness, anger, confusion, delight, or even grief. These are normal reactions to a pregnancy, unintended or not.
So if you find yourself with a positive pregnancy test and an onslaught of emotions that change by the hour, start by taking a deep breath. Make an appointment for a free options consultation and then make a plan to protect your mental health. Because while a wide range of emotions is normal, it’s not always helpful, especially when you need to make practical decisions about your next steps.
Not sure how to get started? Here are six ways to protect your mental health as you navigate an unexpected pregnancy.
#1) Talk it out with yourself.
With so many emotions vying for attention, it’s easy to get overwhelmed at the outset. Before you have a conversation with anyone else, start an honest one with yourself. A good way to do this is to write down what you’re thinking and feeling. You can use your laptop or a good old-fashioned pen and notebook, but however you choose to do it, be open and clear. Don’t edit how you feel.
Journaling offers a variety of positive mental health benefits, including managing anxiety and cutting down on stress. That’s because writing out your thoughts and feelings can help you identify what’s most important at the moment. You can also look back at your journal to see your progress or identify areas that you’re still struggling with. Jotting your thoughts down might not give you any clear answers – at least not right away – but it can kickstart self-reflection and put you in a better mindset to start facing the issues ahead.
If you are considering an abortion, write how you feel about abortion, how you may feel after, and how you feel about each pregnancy decision. This can help you make a decision on facts rather than an emotionally-charged one.
#2) Get the right help from the right people.
Everyone goes through stressful situations, but not everyone stays there. If you’re dealing with a stressful set of circumstances and find yourself stuck, then you may need more help than your best friend can give you. That’s where we come in.
We have a team of caring professionals that are here to help you not only navigate the wide range of emotions and mental health challenges that can come with a pregnancy decision, but we can also provide all the information you need to make an informed and empowered choice.
Know that you’re not alone. Even for women who expect and want to become pregnant, this can be a challenging time. Get help from a trustworthy source that won’t pressure you or financially benefit from your decision. It’ll make it less daunting to work through your options.
#3) Don’t borrow worries from tomorrow.
When you’re facing difficult decisions, pregnant or not, it’s easy to let fear consume your thoughts. Take control of negative thoughts and worries by thinking of any possible positive outcomes of your situation. In order to overcome worry and fear, we also recommend practicing gratitude. This may seem like a difficult thing to do during painful circumstances, but practicing gratitude can help you think more clearly and objectively while diminishing anxiety.
Once you learn how to accept your thoughts and emotions as they are, without judgment, you can work through them more productively.
#4) Get outside yourself, too.
You lead a full life and you’re facing a difficult decision. Now’s not the best time to start signing up for volunteer shifts at your local animal shelter, right? Well, not so fast. As it turns out, giving back can be good for your health, which means volunteering might be a good way for you to step outside yourself so you can see things more clearly.
Doing good takes many forms. You might volunteer at a nursing home, food bank or blood donation center. Look for opportunities that fit your interests. A website like VolunteerMatch can connect you with local organizations based on category.
And if you just don’t have the time or ability to volunteer on a bigger scale, find other, smaller ways to help others in your life or community. You might pet-sit for a friend on a regular basis or offer a lift to someone without a car. Getting outside of yourself may help you make clearer decisions about your future.
#5) Don’t ignore the physical.
Eating well, moving your body on a regular basis, and getting enough good sleep every night form the foundation of a healthy physical life. But when you’re stressed or trying to make important life decisions – like what to do about an unexpected pregnancy – you might be tempted to shove these foundational things to the back burner. Don’t.
Your mind and body work together, so tending to one can help nourish the other. In other words, eating a balanced diet of foods with high nutritional value and getting enough regular movement can improve your mental health.
As for poor sleep, consistently getting less sleep than you should can impact your decision-making skills and cognitive function.
So if you’re having trouble getting shut eye before you make your decision or before an appointment, try establishing a consistent bedtime routine with a proper wind-down period. Reading a physical book, drinking a warm cup of decaf tea, and turning off all electronics in your room can all help set the stage for an easier slumber.
#6) Accept and ask for help when you need it.
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: you’re not alone. One of the best things you can do when you’re facing a pregnancy decision is to accept the help that’s offered, and ask for it when it’s not.
This goes back to surrounding yourself with people in your life who care about your welfare and your wellbeing. Maybe that’s family and maybe it isn’t. But you likely have people in your life who would step up and step in when you need it, so don’t be afraid to accept any help that’s offered.
If you don’t have that team of support yet, we’ve got your back. We not only provide a great team of support for anyone facing an unexpected pregnancy, we also provide consultations on abortion and pregnancy, and other empowering services for women too.
Our pregnancy services are always private, free of charge, and judgment-free. Contact us today and be on your way to feeling confident and at peace.
Psych Central, “The Psychology of Dealing with an Unplanned Pregnancy”
University of Rochester Medical Center, “Journaling for Mental Health”
Health Network Blog, “Giving Back is Good For You”
Volunteer Match, main page
Mental Health Foundation UK, “Physical health and mental health”
Sleep Foundation, “How Lack of Sleep Impacts Cognitive Performance and Focus”