My friend is pregnant

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She doesn’t know what to do – how can I help her?

Firstly, it’s great she has a friend like you to talk to. Try and encourage her to talk about how she is feeling. She may well be feeling confused, scared and very unsure what to do next. Talking about her situation and her feelings may help her to see the issues more clearly and can be a first step towards making a positive decision about her future.

It’s really important that she doesn’t rush into any decision that she may regret later – you can help her to avoid this by encouraging her to find out more information, or by finding out some information yourself and sharing it with her.

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Where can I find information?

At TPAC our team of advisors are here for your friend to talk to. They’ll listen to her and help her work through any concerns or questions she may have. They can give her information about pregnancy, birth, abortion and adoption, and they also have lots of information available about the support and help that’s available to mothers in different circumstances. Our specially trained ultrasonographers can give her a free ultrasound scan so she can see her baby and learn about development if she would like to.

Why not encourage your friend to make an appointment at TPAC, just drop in, or call our helpline? You can come with her to TPAC if she would like you to. You can also come on your own if you want to gather some information for her.

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She’s still at school – will this be the end of her education?

Having a baby does not need to mean the end of your friend’s education. In fact, the education system today is more flexible than it has ever been. For example, did you know that there are schools on Tyneside that provide mainstream education for teenage mums and childcare for their baby? It is illegal for a school to exclude a pupil on the grounds of her being pregnant and Newcastle City Council’s policy is to help pregnant teenagers attend school for as long as possible and to provide online educational services for those who prefer to study outside the school environment.

How and when your friend continues with her education will depend on the stage that she is at, the support she has at home, what her school can offer her, and what she feels will suit her and her baby best. She may be able to transfer to a different place of study with more support or on-site childcare. This will depend on her personal circumstances and her choice.

The advisors at TPAC have information about different options and can put your friend in touch with organisations that can help her to finish her education and go on to further training if she wishes.

Why not encourage your friend to make an appointment at TPAC or just drop in?

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How could she ever afford to keep the baby?

Having a baby can be financially demanding, but there is help available. The advisors at TPAC have information about benefits, Tax Credits, maternity pay, Sure Start grants, childcare providers etc. What your friend is able to claim will depend on her situation: whether she is single or not, if she is working or in education, and where she is living. We can direct her to people who will be able to help her work out what she will be entitled to, and support her in planning her finances.

Here are some examples of financial support for parents:

If your friend is working she will be entitled to maternity leave. Her job may be kept open for her if she wants to go back some time after the birth. She may be able to arrange more flexible hours, or to work part time. The amount of maternity pay she is entitled to and the length of time she may take off work will depend on how long she has been in her job and the policy her employer has. She may also be entitled to working  tax credit.

Even if your friend is not working she will be able to claim child tax credit.

She will be entitled to child benefit (even if she is under 16 years old).

If your friend is not working she may be able to claim income support. The amount for a parent with a child is more than for a single person.

If your friend has no other children under 16 and she or her partner are receiving certain income-related benefits, she may qualify for a £500 Sure Start maternity grant.

There is much more help available, including education grants, help with childcare costs, enterprise grants (if your friend wants to work from home) and help with debt problems. Contact us for more information. You can also get information about most benefits and maternity pay from www.dwp.gov.uk

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What does abortion involve?

If your friend is considering having an abortion it’s really important for her to know what it involves. Here’s a brief overview.

Abortion is ending an unwanted pregnancy using medicine(taking tablets) or surgery (having an operation).

medical abortion can be used at any stage of pregnancy, but most often within the first 9 weeks.

A medical abortion usually involves two visits to a clinic or hospital. At the first visit, a tablet is taken which makes the lining of the womb unsuitable for the baby to grow in. Bleeding and stomach cramps may occur after this. Some women may pass the contents of their womb before the second clinic visit.

At the second visit (36-48 hours later), up to 4 tablets are placed in the vagina. These tablets make the womb contract so that its contents are passed. For most women this stage of the abortion takes between 1 and 6 hours. During this time there will be some pain and bleeding.

Occasionally the medicines are not effective in causing an abortion, in which case a short operation is required to make sure the womb is completely emptied.

If a medical abortion is used after 20 weeks of pregnancy, it also involves an injection into the womb to stop the baby’s heart, before the contractions are started using vaginal tablets. Strong pain killers are usually required.

Surgical abortion can take place between 7 and 24 weeks of pregnancy, but is rarely used after 20 weeks. There are several different types of surgical abortion, so here is an overview of the more common methods:

Vacuum Aspiration (between 7 and 14 weeks of pregnancy)

Under local or general anaesthetic a suction tube is inserted into the womb and the contents are removed using an electric suction pump. It is usually possible to go home after 3-4 hours. There may be bleeding for up to 14 days, or sometimes a bit longer.

Dilatation and Evacuation (between 15 and 24 weeks of pregnancy)

Vaginal tablets are used to soften the entrance to the womb (cervix) before this procedure, which is usually done under general anaesthetic.

By this stage the developing baby is larger, so the entrance to the womb must be stretched (dilatation) in order for the contents of the womb to be removed (evacuation) using metal forceps. Any remaining tissue is removed using a suction tube. It is usually possible to go home 3-4 hours after this procedure. There may be bleeding for up to 14 days or sometimes longer. Occasionally an overnight stay in hospital is required for a surgical abortion, especially in later pregnancy. If a surgical abortion is used after 20 weeks of pregnancy, it also involves an injection into the womb to stop the baby’s heart from beating.

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What are the risks?

As with all clinical procedures there are risks associated with abortion. In some instances the following physical complications may occur:

  • Excessive bleeding, sometimes requiring a blood transfusion or surgical procedure
  • Infection which could lead to fertility problems
  • Damage to the cervix or womb
  • Failed abortion/ incomplete abortion requiring further treatment
  • Miscarriage or premature delivery in subsequent pregnancies

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Are there any psychological effects of abortion?

Women often feel relief immediately after an abortion, but later on some find it hard to come to terms with their experience and the choice they made.

Women have reported feelings of guilt, shame, grief, depression, anxiety and panic. Negative experiences including flashbacks, relationship problems, drug and alcohol abuse, self-harm, sleeping problems, avoidance of children and anxiety about infertility can also follow an abortion.

Research also highlights the effects abortion has on men. Men have reported feelings of guilt, anxiety about their partner’s health, self doubt and pain over the loss of their child. Some men have also reported relationship problems which they felt resulted from the decision to have an abortion.

If you or your friend are concerned about these risks, talk to one of our advisors who will help to answer your questions.

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Feeling under pressure?

An unplanned pregnancy can make people panic and abortion often feels like the only way out.

If your friend is considering abortion because other people are putting pressure on her it’s important that she takes the time to think for herself.

If you or your friend need support and a listening ear why not talk to a TPAC advisor? You can make an appointment, just drop in, call our helpline or send an email.

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Is adoption an option?

Adoption can be a very positive option for both your friend and her baby. If she feels unable to care for the baby then adoption means she can arrange for them to be cared for by a loving family. It means she can give her child the kind of life she would want to give them, but perhaps cannot give them now, for whatever reason.

Many people have negative images about the adoption process – often from films or books which do not give a true picture of what it is like in Britain today. Some things you may not know are:

  • Studies show that most adoptions work out happily
  • Your friend can make her child a ‘life book’ that tells them what she would like them to know about her (and the father)
  • She can say what sort of people she would like as parents for her child

Deciding together now to place her baby for adoption does not mean your friend cannot change her mind after the baby is born. She can change her mind any time up until the adoption order is made – about 3 months after the birth.

At TPAC we can give your friend more information about adoption. We can help her consider her decision, and support her through the pregnancy and the adoption itself if she wants. We can also give you any information that would be helpful for you to share with your friend or talk through anyconcerns you yourself might have. Why not make an appointment, just drop in, call our helpline or email us?

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See other frequently asked questions.