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Now You're Pregnant : Will Life Ever be the Same? Special situations

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Q: I don't have a partner, but I want this baby—will I be OK if I go it alone?
A: This may be a worrying time for you, but you might find it reassuring to know that many women do have babies on their own. Although it would be wrong to pretend that this is as easy as it is with two parents, with additional support it is possible. You may also have very strong reasons why you want a baby, for example, increasing age, and this determination will give you strength and focus.

As important as it is to get support while pregnant, it's even more vital if you are going it alone. It will be a great help if you can find someone to talk to and confide in. This could be your mother, a close friend or relative, or perhaps a teacher. Because you are making far-reaching decisions about your future, it's important that you have support, accurate information, and time to think things through without fear, panic, or pressure from others. Finding somebody you really trust and who you know can give you support when you need it, especially in labor, may help relieve a lot of the pressure and enable you to think more calmly and clearly about your situation and help to make plans as to how to proceed. It's worth bearing in mind too that your birthing partner doesn't have to be the baby's father; it can be anyone you choose.

Q: I'm pregnant and still at school; will I have to leave school?
A: If you attend a public school, you will be encouraged to stay and complete your education. As soon as you find out, contact your school counselor. He or she can help you make plans for coursework and care of the baby after birth. Some schools have clinics and even day care for your baby. If your pregnancy becomes complicated, tutors can be arranged to help you keep up with your studies.

If you attend a private or faith-based program, most will want you to stay in school but, since they are private, these schools have the right to ask you to not return until after your baby is born. If possible, have your parents contact the school administrator to discuss plans for your education while pregnant and after the birth of your baby.

After the baby is born, some states provide for a mandatory 6 week leave while others do not. Check with your state government for the laws where you live. This is an important time for you to bond with your baby, get feeding established, arrange child care, and recover fully from childbirth. You may also want to ask for a tutor or have friends keep you updated on coursework and assignments.

Q: I've just started college and now I'm pregnant—my parents will be furious. What can I do?
A: Most young women feel a strong mixture of emotions when they find out they are pregnant, with many feeling terrified of telling their parents and worrying that they are letting them down. However, it's important to talk to someone, and probably the best people to talk to are your parents. When you feel able, sit down and explain the situation to them. It may help to have someone else with you to help break the news. Although your parents' initial reaction may be one of disappointment and shock, they may feel guilty too, thinking that they have failed you in some way. Try to remind yourself that ultimately your parents love you and will most likely support you, although you may need to give them some time to adjust to the pregnancy.

If you feel you cannot talk to your parents to discuss your options, try to find a trusted and supportive adult friend to talk to. Alternatively, talk to a midwife or doctor, or a professor whom you trust. Any of these people will have had previous experience with situations like yours and may be able to offer good advice.

You should be able to continue with your studies and many educational institutions have child-care facilities—pregnancy doesn't need to mean an end to your education plans. Being able to reassure your parents on this point will help them come to terms with your pregnancy.

Q: My boyfriend said it was safe, but now I think I'm pregnant—who can I talk to?
A: Although there are times during your menstrual cycle when you are less likely to conceive, it's important to understand that there are no guarantees and, if you are not planning a pregnancy, then it is always wise to use a form of contraception.

It is frightening to find out that you are unexpectedly pregnant, but confiding in someone can help enormously. First, it is important to establish that you definitely are pregnant. Home pregnancy tests, purchased over the counter in any pharmacy or supermarket, are very accurate , or you can get one free from some community health clinics.

If you are pregnant, talking to a close friend or trusted relative who you believe would give you support at this emotional time may be extremely reassuring. You could also talk to a health-care provider or a counselor at a community clinic or family planning organization. Although telling your parents may seem like a frightening prospect, you may find their support invaluable, and of course you need to talk to your partner, who may be a great source of support too.

Q: I know my mom cares but she wants to come everywhere with me—how can I tell her to back off?
A: Pick the right time, over lunch perhaps, and try to explain sensitively to your mother that you need and want to do some things on your own. Let her know that you value her support, but that you need your own space and time to reflect and bond with your baby during the pregnancy. If you state how you feel now, this will also help set boundaries for after the birth.

Although your mother may be upset at first and feel excluded, with time she will most likely come to appreciate your point of view. Ask her how her mother reacted to her pregnancy, when she was carrying you. You may find that she was overprotective too.

Q: I thought I was menopausal, but I'm pregnant. Our youngest child is 10. How will we adapt?
A: It is a shock to discover that you are pregnant when you thought your childbearing years were finished. Although fertility does decline fairly rapidly in your 40s, a pregnancy is still possible, and it is not unusual for women in this age group to believe they are entering menopause when in fact they are pregnant, since symptoms for both are fairly similar. Couples may also become more relaxed about contraception, believing that a pregnancy is unlikely. So a late pregnancy is not uncommon.

The pregnancy affects not only you and your partner, but the whole family; it will take a while for all of you to adjust to the news, and many different emotions may be felt during this time. The most important thing is to keep talking so that any concerns can be ironed out rather than left unresolved. Involve the whole family in your pregnancy plans to reduce jealousy and make everyone feel involved and needed.

It is important too that you give your children time to adapt to the news. Some children are delighted with a new pregnancy, while others are embarrassed and may need time to adjust. Your partner may experience a mixture of emotions too, ranging from excitement at being a new dad again to shock and disbelief, maybe even disappointment. Take heart, these will be temporary feelings, and no doubt as time goes on, and as your family adjusts, you will feel more supported.

You are probably aware that there may be some additional risks associated with your pregnancy, such as an increased risk of Down syndrome. When planning your care, your midwife or doctor will take into account your age and explain the appropriate tests and care available.

Q: It's 12 years since my last pregnancy. Have benefits and care changed much in this time?
A: A lot has changed since your last pregnancy. You should take time to find out about current pregnancy care and recommendations, since there may be tests and scans available now that you were not offered in your last pregnancy.
Q: My daughter is eight years old. Will she get along with the new baby or is it too big an age gap?
A: There is no right or wrong age gap between siblings and, often, how siblings get along together has more to do with their personalities rather than the age difference. Although they are likely to have independent interests, she is probably very excited at the prospect of a new baby.
Q: Our first baby is only 10 months old—how can I be pregnant again?
A: Usually, periods begin again between two and four months after the birth, but if you are breast-feeding, your periods may not return until your baby starts on solids, or even later. Some women use breast-feeding as a form of contraception and although it reduces the likelihood of pregnancy, it is not reliable. If you are breast-feeding, the time it takes for the return of ovulation depends on the frequency, intensity, and duration of feeding, the maintenance of night feedings, and the introduction of supplementary feeding. The absence of periods does not guarantee that you are not ovulating, so there is a risk of pregnancy.

It is quite possible to ovulate within a month or two of giving birth, and not unknown to ovulate as early as two or three weeks following the birth. This is why midwives always discuss contraception in the days following the birth, even though some new mothers find this an inappropriate time to discuss family planning. Although you may feel daunted at the prospect of having two very young children, there are advantages to having a close age gap. Your children are likely to grow up as playmates and the period of sleepless nights, diaper changes, and of having very dependent young children can be dealt with altogether in a shorter space of time.

Q: What about adoption? Is it still an option?
A: Adoption is often dismissed as an option, but sometimes it is the best choice for you and your baby. The nine months of pregnancy provide you with time to explore all options available to you, including temporary voluntary foster care. Often, with labor behind you, you may have second thoughts about adoption. It is important to know that there is no hurry. Your social worker is the best person to help communicate your feelings to family and adoptive parents and come to a satisfactory solution in the short-term. Although statutes vary from state to state, the birth mother always has a period of time when she can change her mind in favor of adoption or against. Some states recognize the rights of the father to have a voice in the decision while others do not. Although it is wise to listen to the opinions of close family and counselors, the decision in the end will be yours. Try not to make a final decision during pregnancy, since you are subject to a range of emotions and feelings and you have not yet met your baby or know how you will feel in the longer term.
Q: My boyfriend doesn't want to be involved with my pregnancy—will he have rights after the birth?
A: Your boyfriend is quite possibly shocked by the news that you are pregnant but, given time, he may come around to the idea and be more supportive. Although it is a difficult and hurtful time for you, try not to overreact by denying access to the father after the birth, unless you are certain this is what you want. Once your boyfriend sees your baby, his attitude and feelings may change, so it could be worth giving him time to adjust. It can help to seek support from trusted family members and friends.

A biological father may not have automatic rights to be involved in the upbringing of his baby if he is not legally married to the mother and he is not named on the birth certificate. (If the parents aren't married, the father may have to accompany the mother to register the birth if he wants to be named on the birth certificate.) If he is named on the birth certificate, he has some basic rights in terms of access and has some financial responsibility for his child. If you do not wish your boyfriend to have access then you do not need to name him on the birth forms. If he has been named on the forms and you decide later that you don't want him to have access, you will need to go to court to seek a formal injunction and be able to justify why you require this. You should bear in mind the financial implications of your decision because if you do not include him on the forms it may mean that he would not be obliged to provide financial support for you and the baby.

Avoiding isolation Building up a support network

It is important for all pregnant women to have emotional and practical support, and this is especially important if you are in a vulnerable situation.

  • Attend all your prenatal checkups and build a relationship with your midwife; she is an invaluable source of information.

  • Arrange childbirth classes. If you are single, daytime courses may be less populated by “couples”; this gives you a chance to build a network of women, which will be invaluable after the birth.

  • Don't be too proud to accept offers of help from friends and family.

Preparing older siblings Helping your older children adapt

If you become pregnant when your other children are older, you may need to take more time preparing them for the arrival of their sibling.

  • Don't be upset or impatient if they seem less than enthusiastic about the baby; they may be worried about the impact a baby will have on family life.

  • Reassure teenage children that you will still have time for them and that you won't just expect them to be an unpaid babysitter.

  • Allow older children to express their concerns and take time to reassure them.

NOTE

Even if you don't want to follow your mother's path, you may find that she does provide some helpful words of wisdom!

NOTE

Whatever your situation, it's important that you don't feel isolated. Never feel afraid to seek additional support and advice

Young moms and older moms Adapting to pregnancy

Pregnant women who are older or younger than average are likely to have additional concerns about how they will cope with pregnancy and impending motherhood.

Q: How will I cope as a younger mom?
A: There are pros and cons to being a younger mom. On the downside, you may have more concerns about how you will cope financially and how this may affect your education or career, and you may be in a less stable relationship and be concerned about the possibility of separating from your partner. On the practical and physical side, you are likely to have far greater reserves of energy to cope with childbirth and baby care, and some younger moms have good support in the form of relatively young grandparents.
Q: What can I expect as an older mom?
A: There are advantages and disadvantages to giving birth later in life. If you are over 35, your pregnancy could be considered high risk by some care providers and you will be offered a greater range of screening and diagnostic tests. Once the baby is born, sleepless nights and constant child care may be more taxing than it would be for a younger mother with greater energy reserves.

On the plus side, however, it's important to remember that women today are more fit than ever and the majority of older women have trouble-free pregnancies. You are less likely to have financial worries, are more likely to be in a stable relationship, and be more self assured and confident in your abilities.

Teenage pregnancies:

Being a pregnant teenager can be very stressful as you worry about how you will cope with the responsibility.

Older first-time moms:

Having a first baby late in life can be a far bigger adjustment since you will have established routines.

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