Unplanned Pregnancy Guide: What You Need to Know

If you’re facing an unplanned pregnancy, there are lots of possible reactions.  You may feel excited, elated. Or you may feel confused and lonely. Maybe you’re wondering what to do. It’s important to know there are resources available to you. You have options.

Let’s begin by explaining what we mean when we talk about “unplanned pregnancy”.

What we mean by an unplanned pregnancy

An unplanned, accidental, or unintended pregnancy is simply a pregnancy in which the baby was conceived without planning. It’s not necessarily the same as an unwanted pregnancy. 

Accidental pregnancies are common and happen to all kinds of people.  In fact, nearly half of all pregnancies in the United States are unplanned. In some of these cases, the unplanned pregnancy is a pleasant surprise. At other times, an unintentional pregnancy is undesired. 

Things to know about unplanned pregnancy

Finding out you’re pregnant may be a shock, but it’s important to know that unintended pregnancies are more common than you think. Here are some interesting facts for you:

  • About 45% of all pregnancies in the U.S. are unintended
  • 27% of pregnancies are “mistimed,” meaning the woman wanted to become pregnant at some point but not right now
  • About 18% are unwanted pregnancies where the woman did not wish to become pregnant now or later.

Whether your unintended (unplanned) pregnancy is unwanted or mistimed, know that you always have options.

Options for unplanned pregnancy

The first thing to remember is that your decisions are yours.  It’s a personal matter. Friends in Adoption is here to make sure you have someone to talk to who has all the facts, but we won’t tell you what decision to make. Only you can determine what is best for you and your baby. 

There are three main options for every unintended pregnancy in the United States:

  • Parenting — giving birth and raising the child.
  • Abortion — taking medication or having a medical procedure that ends the pregnancy.
  • Adoption — giving birth and permanently placing your child with another person or family .

Let’s take a closer look at each of these options.

Considering parenting?

Even someone who initially got pregnant accidentally may find that they’re ready and excited to raise the baby. If you want to parent your baby, no one should try to convince you to do otherwise.

Only you can make this decision, and there are many resources available if you need help parenting. If you’re unsure, here are some things to think about:

  • Can you afford to raise a baby right now?
  • Can you provide the kind of life you envision for your child? 
  • Do you have insurance coverage?
  • Will the father of your child help you raise him or her? 
  • Who will you be able to call on for advice, babysitting, money and more?
  • Where will you and the baby live?
  • If you have other children, how will this impact them?
  • Will your job provide the flexibility you need?
  • Will you be able to finish school?
  • How is your health?

If you are unexpectedly pregnant and decide you are ready and excited to parent your baby, that may be all you need to make your decision. But, if not, there is absolutely no shame in not wishing or feeling ready to parent your baby when faced with an unintentional pregnancy.

Considering Abortion?

Abortion is an option if you’ve become pregnant in the United States. Depending on how far along you are in your pregnancy, you may be given medication or undergo an outpatient medical procedure to terminate your pregnancy.

The subject of abortion can be sensitive for some. If this option is right for you, please keep these two things in mind. 

  • Laws on abortion vary by state. You may need to research the laws based on where you live. 
  • Because abortion can be controversial, it’s important to stick to reliable sources for information and advice.

This is your decision. No one should try to talk you out of or into having an abortion.

Considering Adoption?

Giving birth to a baby and then giving it permanently to a family (or individual) to raise is a major decision.  If you choose this option for your unplanned pregnancy you have a lot of control.  Friends in Adoption can help you sort through your feelings and options, without influencing you in any way. 

A major choice you’ll make is the type of adoption: open, closed or semi-open.

Open adoption

An open adoption is simply an adoption in which the adoptive and birth families share identifying information and have contact with each other during and after the adoption process. Within this, there are a lot of options, and an open adoption for one family could look very different from another. Open adoptions have numerous advantages including:

Sense of Control: Having the ability to select the parents for your child can provide a sense of empowerment, security, and control.

Reduced uncertainty, fear, or guilt: Most birth parents feel reassured knowing about the child’s well-being through regular interactions with the adoptive family. Knowing their child is in good hands reduces any concerns or guilt about the decision to place their child for adoption. 

Relationship with Child: With an open adoption, there is the potential to develop a mutually beneficial relationship with the child as he or she matures. 

How Does an Open Adoption Work?

How an open adoption works depends on the people involved. Typically the prospective birth parents and adoptive families get to know each other prior to placement. This can be via phone calls, video calls, email changes, or in-person visits. After the adoption, the relationship can continue through their preferred correspondence method.  It could be photos, cards and letters, or emails and texts, and even in-person visits. The method and frequency all depends on what the birth parents and the adoptive family have agreed to.

Closed adoption

A closed adoption is one in which the adoptive family and birth mother remain confidential, with no contact prior to or after the placement of the child. Although closed adoptions have waned in popularity, there are some advantages:

Emotional closure: For some, an open adoption might be too painful. Some birth parents can feel that a closed adoption will provide a sense of closure for them.

Safety: If the birth parent is dealing with a toxic or abusive environment, it can be in everyone’s best interests to minimize contact.

Privacy: If a birth parent chooses to keep their pregnancy and adoption plan private, closed adoption may make it easier for them to maintain their privacy.

How a Closed Adoption Works

Communication and information to be shared between birth parents and the adoptive family goes through a third party, often adoption agency, until the child reaches legal age (18-21, depending on the state).

In a closed adoption the prospective birth mother may still choose the adoptive family if interested. A case manager will help them choose the family or the case manager can choose the family for them if they desire. A case manager will also work with the  prospective birth mother to set up her hospital adoption plan. Any contact after the placement would go through the adoption agency. For instance, if a birth mother found out about a medical condition later in life, she can contact the adoption agency, who would then forward this information to the adoptive family for the child’s wellbeing. 

Semi-open adoption

This is the middle ground  –  a semi-open relationship. The agreement may involve limited phone calls, emails and texts after placement of the baby. There may also be meetings before the birth. Birth and adoptive parents typically know one another’s first names. The plan is made based on the needs and wants of the birth parents.

This adoption option has the advantage of maintaining privacy, while also allowing birth mothers to be reassured about the well-being of their child.

How a Semi-Open Adoption Works

In a Semi-open adoption most or all communication is facilitated through an adoption agency to preserve privacy by withholding identifying information. Prospective birth mothers and adoptive parents can still meet and communicate, but it will look a bit different than in an open adoption. For instance, adoption agencies may mediate a conference call with both parties calling into the agency to speak to each other, this way phone numbers are not exchanged. For ongoing communication the adoptive family would send pictures and letters to the adoption agency, who will then forward it to the birth parent’s address. 

Choices in adoption

Should you decide on adoption, our team will be with you throughout the whole adoption process. You have plenty of choices no matter what type of adoption you choose. It is also important to know you can create an adoption plan at any point during your pregnancy, and you can even decide on adoption while at the hospital. Your adoption plan will spell out where you stand on choices like these:


Do you want to share your pregnancy and potential adoption plan with family and/or friends or do you want to keep it completely confidential?

Adoptive Family 

Do you want to choose your child’s adoptive family? If so, what type of adoptive family do you prefer (e.g., race, religion, a family with other children, etc.)?

Pregnancy Choices

 Do you want the prospective adoptive family involved during the pregnancy?


What hospital do you wish to give birth at? Do you want to spend time with the baby at the hospital? Do you want the prospective adoptive family to do the same?

Future Choices

Do you want information about your child as he/she grows? If so, what form do you want this information to be in (letters and pictures, visits, video chat, email etc..)?

Friends in Adoption can help

If you’re pregnant and unsure of what to do, contact Friends in Adoption (FIA). You can call our 24-hour line at  1-800-982-3678 (1-800-98-ADOPT) or text us at 1-518-350-4581.

We have been empowering women and couples within the United States for more than 40 years to make informed decisions about their unplanned pregnancies. FIA is a nonprofit, pro-choice, licensed adoption agency that is committed to inclusiveness and providing lifelong support. We have an extensive network of kind, compassionate, and skilled adoption professionals. While our offices are located in New York and Vermont, we work with pregnant individuals and biological parents across the country. 

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