Pregnancy Choices: Raising the Baby, Adoption, and Abortion
Frequently Asked Questions Expand All
There are several options available to you if you discover you are pregnant, including 1) giving birth to the baby and raising the baby, 2) giving birth and placing the baby for adoption, and 3) ending the pregnancy by having an abortion.
You need to be sure that you really are pregnant. If you took a home pregnancy test that shows you are pregnant, you should see a health care professional to confirm the result. This visit also will help find out how far along you are in your pregnancy.
Your age, values, beliefs, health, current situation, and future goals all may play a role in your decision. How far along you are in your pregnancy may limit your options. For example, if you choose to have an abortion, it should be done early in pregnancy when there are fewer risks.
While you are deciding, start taking a prenatal vitamin with 600 micrograms of folic acid. This vitamin helps to protect the fetus from certain birth defects. Do not drink alcohol, smoke, or take drugs. Talk with your health care professional about any prescription drugs or over-the-counter medications you are taking to make sure they are safe for the fetus. If you choose to raise the baby or place the baby for adoption, it is best to begin prenatal care as soon as you can.
Good prenatal care makes it more likely that you will give birth to a healthy baby. Prenatal care also includes learning about labor and delivery and birth control methods you can think about using after the baby is born.
You may want to think about the following:
How will you manage child care? Do you have anyone who can help you?
Where will you and the baby live? Will you have to change your living arrangements?
Do you have the income to support yourself and a new baby?
If you have other children, how will raising this child affect them?
The general process is that shortly after the baby is born, the birth mother (the woman who gives birth to the baby) signs papers that end her rights to the child and give her consent for the adoption. If the birth father is known and agrees with the adoption, he also signs consent forms.
Sometimes the baby leaves the hospital with the adoptive parents. Sometimes the baby is first placed in foster care and goes home with the adoptive parents after paperwork is completed.
There are three types of adoptions: 1) open, 2) closed, and 3) semi-open.
In open adoption, the birth mother and the adoptive parents may meet and share names and addresses.
In a closed adoption, the birth mother and the adoptive parents do not meet or know each other’s names. The adoptive parents only get information about the medical history and family history of the birth parents—nothing that would identify them.
In a semi-open adoption, the adoption agency can provide the birth mother with information about the baby from the adoptive parents and vice versa, but there is no direct contact between the birth mother and the baby. Identities usually are kept hidden.
If you arrange an adoption through an agency, ask the agency what kind of financial help—both medical and legal—is offered. If you cannot afford a private lawyer to help you with the adoption, you may be able to find legal aid.
In some states, there are rules and waiting periods before having an abortion. Most states require a minor’s parents or legal guardian to be involved before the minor can have an abortion. If a minor cannot or does not want their parents or guardian to be involved, court approval may be required before the abortion. To learn more about abortion laws in your state, go to www.guttmacher.org/state-policy/explore/overview-abortion-laws.
Most abortions happen as a procedure in a health care professional’s office. Some abortion procedures happen in a surgical center or hospital. Other abortions are completed at home with a woman taking medications. This is called a medication abortion.
The type of abortion you may have depends on many factors, including your health and how far along your pregnancy is. It also may depend on where in the country your abortion care is provided. Each abortion experience is different. Read Abortion Care for detailed information on how abortion may be done.
Abortion during the first trimester is a safe procedure. As with any medical procedure, there may be risks. After a procedural abortion, it’s common to have soreness and cramping for a few days. You may be offered a prescription for pain medication or you can take over-the-counter pain medication. Bleeding and spotting may last for up to 2 weeks. This is normal.
Your health care professional should explain what to expect in terms of pain, bleeding, and passing the pregnancy. For some, a medication abortion may cause vaginal bleeding that is much heavier than a menstrual period. There may be severe cramping. There also may be nausea, vomiting, fever, and chills.
You may be offered a prescription for pain medication or you can take over-the-counter pain medication. Also, you should have a follow-up plan with your health care professional to be sure that the abortion is complete. Follow-up may be an in-person appointment or a phone call.
If you are thinking about ending the pregnancy, seek medical advice as soon as you can. You and your health care professional should talk together about all of your questions. You have a right to respectful care and support for whatever decision you make.
The decision whether to raise a child, place a baby for adoption, or seek abortion care may be hard to make. Make sure that you have all the facts and all your questions are answered before you decide. There are many organizations that can provide information. Start with the list of resources below.
Hotline that provides conversations with peers about abortion, adoption, parenting, infertility, and pregnancy loss. Volunteer staff are not licensed health care professionals or mental health specialists.
Child Welfare Information Gateway
Website from the federal government that provides resources for birth parents and adoptive parents on a variety of topics.
National Abortion Federation
Referral line: 877-257-0012
Organization that offers confidential consultation, options counseling, and referrals to abortion providers. NAF also offers limited financial assistance to help pay for abortion care.
National Council for Adoption
Organization that provides education on adoption and resources for everyone connected by adoption, including birth parents, adoptive parents, adopted people, and adoption professionals.
Birth Control: Devices or medications used to prevent pregnancy.
Birth Defects: Physical problems that are present at birth.
Fetus: The stage of human development beyond 8 completed weeks after fertilization.
Folic Acid: A vitamin that reduces the risk of certain birth defects when taken before and during pregnancy.
Menstrual Period: The monthly shedding of blood and tissue from the uterus.
Prenatal Care: A program of care for a pregnant woman before the birth of her baby.
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Last updated: September 2021
Last reviewed: September 2021
Copyright 2021 by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. All rights reserved. Read copyright and permissions information.
This information is designed as an educational aid for the public. It offers current information and opinions related to women's health. It is not intended as a statement of the standard of care. It does not explain all of the proper treatments or methods of care. It is not a substitute for the advice of a physician. Read ACOG’s complete disclaimer.
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