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Heather Corinna replies:
What should I do if I think I am pregnant but I don't want my mum or dad knowing?
What you need to determine, before anything else, is if you are, in fact, pregnant.
To know that, what you need to do is to take a pregnancy test.
You can purchase a test to take at home at most groceries or pharmacies, and home tests are very accurate. You just want to be sure that you really read and follow those directions and follow them to the letter, and also be sure you're not taking a test when it's too soon to get an accurate result.
Pregnancy tests work by looking for a hormone -- -- that our bodies produce when pregnant, and which can be found in our urine, which is why home tests will have you urinate on a tablet or piece of special paper. You'll do that -- it's generally best to do it with the first urine of the morning -- and then wait the required amount of time the instructions tell you to before you see a result. Some tests will say yes or no, others positive or negative, or some will use visual symbols: those that use symbols will explain what they mean in the directions. Just so you know in advance, the directions will also usually tell you how long the result you see is accurate for: with many tests, your results may look different hours or days after taking the test, but that doesn't mean they have changed. Whatever the test says at the time it says to check it is, that is what your result is.
If you have already missed your period, then you can take a test now. If you haven't missed a period yet, or your periods aren't regular so you don't know when to expect them, but it has been around two weeks since the last time you would have had a risk of pregnancy (the last time you had intercourse or other direct contact with sperm or a penis), then you can also take a test. If it's sooner than either of those times, you're going to need to wait it out. If you take a test too early, that hormone may not be present yet, or may be there in amounts too small for the test to detect. I know that wait can be really stressful, but getting an inaccurate result of a test won't help you, so you've got to hang in until it's time to test.
For more information on home pregnancy tests, take a look at our volunteer Sarah's excellent FAQ here: Peeing on a Stick: All About Pregnancy Tests.
If you get a negative result, and you're sure you haven't taken a test too early, you can be pretty sure you are not pregnant. If you still don't see your period in another week or so, it's a good idea to take another test to be sure your result was accurate the first time. In the case that you get two negatives, but weeks later find you still have not had a period, then you'll want to get in to see a healthcare provider to have them do a test.
If you get a positive result, you will want to have that result verified by a healthcare provider.
Sometimes people don't want to use home tests. Perhaps you're worried about the test being found, given your concerns about privacy from your parents. Or, maybe you're someone who just feels like you feel better getting results from a healthcare provider, either because you don't want to be alone when you get your results (though with a home test, you can always have a friend or partner with you) or just because you trust a test from a doctor's office more.
If that's the case, you can also start with your healthcare provider, be that through a general or sexual healthcare clinic, or at your family doctor's office. Even if your family doctor is someone the rest of your family sees, know that your health information is something a doctor has to keep private. A doctor will often do the same type of urine test you'd do for yourself at home, but if they get a positive result, want to double-check your results, or simply prefer testing differently, they may do a blood test or ultrasound as well or instead.
If you get a negative result from your doctor, you can be sure you are not pregnant. I'd be sure, in that case, to make the most of your time there and also then have a conversation about methods of birth control. You can either choose a method to start using if you don't have one yet, be sure you're using one you do have properly, and find out more about what you can do to prevent pregnancy if you are going to choose to be sexually active from here on out.
If you get a positive result -- either from a home test or from your doctor -- then you can be certain you are pregnant, and then it's time to make some decisions about what you want to do with your pregnancy. Even if you think there may be conflicts or barriers in terms of what you want to do with a pregnancy -- be that remaining pregnant and parenting, considering adoption, or terminating your pregnancy -- it's best to figure out what you'd most want to do as a first step. If you're not certain what you want, or don't even know how to go about making that kind of a choice, I have found this pregnancy options workbook to be very helpful for many women. You can also talk to someone about making this choice, either in person or via the telephone. That person may be your healthcare provider, a private counselor, or an organization which expressly provides options counseling like Backline. In the UK, both Brook and Marie Stopes centres provide options counseling among their many other services. On top of things like the workbook and an options counselor, you'll probably also want to talk to a friend who knows you for extra support and help sorting this out.
Be aware that it can be a bit tricky to find pregnancy options counseling which is not biased: there are many counseling centers -- often called "crisis pregnancy centers" -- which hide personal or religious agendas, and do not give accurate information on all of your choices because they want to trick you into making the choices they feel you should. If none of the above resources work for you, or you're outside the US or UK, this site lists many resources which you can be very certain are bonafide resources for counseling on all your options, where what's put first is what you feel is best for you, not what someone else does. For more information on how to spot a crisis pregnancy center, click here.
Once you figure out what you want to do and are able to do, you'll have to then figure out if you want or need to inform your parents.
It's probably obvious that if you decide you want to remain pregnant, and intend to still live at home or be in touch with your folks, you are going to have to tell them: there comes a point where a pregnancy is just not going to be something you're likely to be able to hide. If you decide to terminate a pregnancy, it will be up to you if you inform them or not, so long as you are not living in an area where by law, your parents have to be involved (your options counselor or counseling resource can fill you in on that).
I really like this resource for talking to parents about having become pregnant: Mom, Dad, I'm Pregnant. You'll find some helps there on how to disclose to parents and work through a conversation. You might want to talk to another family member or trusted adult first, and perhaps ask them for help talking with your parents if you are worried your parents are going to be unsupportive or very upset. If you are in touch with the person who got you pregnant, and that is someone you also want to tell and who is a support to you, that is another person you might consider having with you if and when you tell your parents.
It may be obvious, but if you are concerned that disclosing a pregnancy to your parents may put you in actual danger of any kind, it is likely best not to disclose to them, and to connect with an adult who can help you figure out what you need to do to assure your safety.
Not knowing anything at all about you or the whole of your life, these basics are the best I can do, and I hope that they're helpful to you. Again, you'll want to start with that test before anything else, and I'd suggest doing that as soon as you can: the sooner we find out about a pregnancy, the more time we have to consider our choices, have all options open to us (at a certain point, you will not be able to terminate a pregnancy), and if you're going to choose to remain pregnant, the more time that gives you to start doing all of the things that assure your pregnancy is as healthy as possible for you and a child.