Looking forward to the future when you’re pregnant is a no-brainer for some women. Many women have dreamt about this moment for their entire lives. Not long after they have a positive pregnancy test, they’re off and running, choosing a prenatal care provider, making appointments, telling family and friends, planning time off, and registering on The Bump.
But not all pregnancies are planned or welcomed with such enthusiasm. In fact, according to the NIH, over three million unplanned pregnancies occur each year in the United States. That’s an awful lot of shocked and bewildered women who find themselves holding their positive pregnancy tests results wondering what the heck happened. Instead of reaching for their cell phones or Instagram accounts to broadcast their “happy news,” they stare wide-eyed into the unknown like a deer in headlights fretting about an uncertain future.
Health professionals have recently started to promote the value of using pregnancy navigators to help their patients plan the course of their pregnancy journey. Navigation is especially important during the early stages of pregnancy when a woman is unsure if she will keep the pregnancy or not.
Feeling blindsided by an unplanned pregnancy can be hard to talk about. Many women feel shame about admitting to someone that they are less than thrilled with being pregnant. They may feel pressure from family and friends to feel a certain way.
Additionally, some women feel they no longer have control over their own lives and bodies when they learn they are pregnant. Fear of judgment can lead to isolation and depression. That’s why it’s a good idea to talk to a navigator as early as possible. Although each woman is unique, some questions that could benefit from pregnancy navigation are:
– Who do I tell first?
– What if my partner doesn’t accept the pregnancy?
– Where can I get proof of pregnancy?
– How do I get care if I don’t have health insurance?
– What are my options?
– Who can I talk to about abortion if I’m undecided?
– What do I do if I’m being forced to have an abortion?
– How much time do I have to decide if abortion is right for me?
– How far along am I?
– Are my feelings normal?
– Where can I go for support?
Pregnancy navigators can help women find answers to their vital questions by helping them to look at their circumstances in an unemotional way so they can map out their feelings and discover how they are influencing their pregnancy decision. Additionally, navigators provide pathways for women to access the support they need once their needs have been communicated and identified.
Options uses navigators as non-judgemental, neutral sources of support. They provide an emotionally safe environment for women to talk about the hurdles they are facing with their unplanned pregnancies. No subject is too taboo to discuss.
Options navigators use six different methods to help women process their unplanned pregnancies:
- Compassionate, deep listening.
- Clear and accurate information about all pregnancy options.
- Identifying and linking women to local medical care and support services.
- Offering customized support for each woman with respect for her unique circumstances.
- Encouraging self-care and emotional well-being during pregnancy.
- Continued follow-up at the request of each client.
Very recently, I met with a young woman who came to Options for help in navigating her unplanned pregnancy.
“I’m not thinking right,” she shared. “I am beyond upset. I just know I don’t want to do anything impulsive that I’ll regret.”
Sifting through her emotions with a pregnancy navigator, she gave herself permission to learn more about her pregnancy before she reached her decision. She opted to return to Options for a free ultrasound to see how far along she was and to determine if her pregnancy was viable. By building a relationship of mutual trust, her navigator helped her to honor her desire not to act rashly and to come up with just the right plan for her situation.
Through trust, understanding, concern, and customized plans of action, Options navigators help women with unplanned pregnancies find their true north with confidence and hope for their future, and by reminding each and every woman that she is not alone.