When it comes to pregnancy, making a decision can feel like being stuck between a rock and a hard place. No matter what path is chosen, it seems there is always someone ready to pass judgment.
While we’re busy advocating for choice, we can sometimes forget that deciding to keep a pregnancy can be equally as taxing as deciding to terminate a pregnancy. One’s lifestyle, financial situation and plans for the future can all be thrown into disarray. And though they shouldn’t, decisions can (and do) affect relationships. Fear of how people will respond can play an influential role in the decision-making process.
In a world where people are all too eager to express their judgment, it can be difficult to find support. Women can begin to feel isolated, anxious, and alone.
There are, however, people and services ready and waiting to offer their support, you just need to know where to find them.
This guide is written for women who’ve decided to keep their pregnancy, though we will point out organisations that operate with an anti-abortion bias in case there are pregnant women reading this who haven’t yet made a decision about their pregnancy. Let’s begin:
It is your decision. Your body, your choice.
Remember that you are the one who knows what is best for you – be that abortion, keeping the pregnancy, adoption or whatever other arrangement you may come to.
And you the only one whose gets to make that decision.
That said, if you’re thinking about keeping a pregnancy, here are some starting points for locating the support you may need.
It is generally recommended one looks first and foremost to their home environment. Support can come from partners, family/whanau, and/or friends.
Though it can be difficult to admit the situation for fear of how people will respond, if you can do so safely, it can help.
Friends and family can provide support around the clock in a way that others cannot. We often look to family for love and affection, acceptance and support, and value their opinions such that their reassurance can counter any destructive comments from outside parties, or negative self-talk from within.
While in the ideal world family and friends should make an effort to keep their opinions positive, putting aside any prejudice to recognise the person behind the circumstances, sometimes they can’t or won’t. Sadly, friends and family can struggle with overcoming their preconceptions. Some allow religion or ‘morals’ to blind their judgement. This is not to say they don’t love you, but simply that they aren’t able offer their support as fully as may be needed.
While family/whanau support can be incredibly helpful, if admitting to your family that you are pregnant could put you in a position where you may feel unsafe, it is better to look to other trusted people in your community for support, or to reach out to the available services.
The most important thing, if you haven’t already done so, is to go for a check up with a doctor. If you don’t feel comfortable visiting your family GP, Family Planning offers free (if you’re under 22) or low-cost ($27 for New Zealand residents) appointments.
Family Planning offers free pregnancy tests, free STI testing and some free contraceptive options, among other low-cost services, and will not seek to influence your decision, or judge you in any way.
The best place to start, once you’ve seen a doctor, is to check out what state-provided resources are available. This page offers everything from assistance in finding a lead maternity carer to locating support specifically focused on young women.
If you need support and want to chat, you can call Healthline to speak to a registered nurse at any time, night or day, seven days a week on 0800 611 116. Youthline also provides support for young people. You can call them on 0800 376 633 or text them on 234.
Counsellors and therapists are a popular option for one-on-one support, however, doctors and nurses can also provide assistance. Both have training in supporting their patients (though their expertise in the area of counselling is limited compared to fully trained psychologists and other counsellors) and are bound to confidentiality.
No medical or psychological/counselling professional should seek to influence your decision, however. They should offer support and assistance in referring you to receive the care you need, or share decision-making tools that may help you, but at no point should they voice their opinion about what decision they think you should make.
Some doctors and nurses are known conscientious objectors when it comes to abortion, but they are obliged to tell you that you’re free to go and see another doctor. You can check this list of known conscientious objectors if you’d like to avoid being treated by them.
A counsellor, psychologist or therapist offers the benefit of being experienced and trained in discussing emotions and decision-making, among many other things. Seeing a GP is a good first step, as they can refer you to a reputable and qualified counsellor who can help.
Perhaps it’s not the psychological or medical stuff you are concerned about. Perhaps you are concerned about the practicalities of keeping a baby or are in need of practical support in the form of financial or working aid.
Financial and practical support
This New Zealand Government page provides important information about practical considerations during pregnancy.
- Registries for locating leading maternity carers (midwives and doctors)
- Information about unpaid special leave – individuals are entitled to 10 unpaid days during their pregnancy to attend medical appointments and antenatal classes.
- Information about paid parental leave – individuals are presently entitled to 16 weeks but this is set to extend to 18 weeks from the 1st of April 2016.
- Information about health tests and screenings
- Information about birth registrations, birth certificates, children’s IRD numbers, and car-seat hireage (to be organised for the day of the baby’s arrival)
Financial support services include:
- Parental Tax Credits – The Parental Tax Credit is a Working for Families payment that helps with the costs of a new baby. This can be received in payments on a weekly or fortnightly basis, or as a lump sum at the end of the tax year.
- Domestic Help – In the case of a multiple birth or under certain income/asset levels, individuals may be entitled to home help to assist with the time and financial burden of things like laundry, housework, cooking or childcare.
- Community Services Card – This card makes it cheaper for parents and their children to visit the doctor and get prescriptions.
- Child support – Inland Revenue Child Support Services assist with collecting Child Support financial payments from parents who do not live with their child/ren. This helps in alleviating the financial difficulties of solo parenthood.
- Working for Families – Working for Families is a package designed to make it easier to work while raising a family. It includes financial support from Work & Income, tax credits, improved household affordability (through an accommodation supplement), and assistance with childcare costs (in the form of subsidies for pre-school and out-of-school care).
- Benefits – A list of benefits can be found here. These include Young Parent Payments, Sole Parent Support, Guaranteed Childcare Assistance Payments, and Early Learning Payments. It is worthwhile contacting Work and Income to see what you may be eligible for.
So remember, you are not alone.
There are many faith-based sources of support. It is, however, important to be aware that some religions and religious services object to abortion and may seek to influence your decision. Sadly, some anti-abortion (or so-called ‘pro-life’) campaigners have been known to resort to dubious measures to try to guilt and shame women into keeping a pregnancy.
If you haven’t yet decided whether you’re going to keep or terminate a pregnancy, it may be better to avoid faith-based services, or at least to remain aware of the possibility that they may seek to influence your decision.
If you’ve decided to keep a pregnancy, however, faith-based services can provide a welcome source of support. Local ministers and pastors can represent a familiar party who can be turned to for counselling and support. They also tend to be bound to confidentiality, providing a safe channel for discussion.
Family Life International New Zealand is a Catholic organisation that offers support for girls and women facing unplanned pregnancy. They provide assistance through counselling as well as through more practical services such as pregnancy tests.
For teens and and young women, Spark’s Give A Little foundation has supported the House of Grace, which is a home for pregnant teenagers that provides a space to ‘live, learn, prepare for childbirth and make plans for a bright future’.
Available to women aged 12-23, the home builds practical skills and provides an environment in which young parents are surrounded by people sharing a similar experience. It is affiliated to the global anti-abortion Christian organisation 'Heartbeat International'.
There are a number of organisations offering community-based support. Pro-Life New Zealand has a page of resources that offer to help pregnant women. If you haven’t made a decision about whether or not to keep your pregnancy, you may want to avoid so-called ‘pro-life’ organisations as they will likely seek to influence your decision (even an organisation misleadingly called ‘U Choose’ is actually a pro-life entity).
If you are looking for unbiased services, it’s probably best to turn to the state-funded services or to reach out to medical professionals.
You can do this
When it comes to unplanned pregnancies, it seems everyone has an opinion as to the ‘right’ path to take, as if such a blanket description could exist, but there are people out there who understand and who are ready to support you through your decision.
It doesn’t matter what others think. It doesn’t matter what your local church preaches, what pro-life lobbyists argue, what your partner thinks, what your girlfriends advise or your parents lecture. At the end of the day, what matters is what you think and how you feel.
It’s a tough decision but you are capable of making it. Only you know what’s right for you. Your body, your choice. If you choose to keep the pregnancy, we hope that some of the information above will be helpful. <3Support Villainesse