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I might be pregnant: is abortion the only option?

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T asks:

I've looked all over the internet: so far nothing has given me a straight answer. I don't have money for a pregnancy test and I don't have time to go to a doctor. About two weeks after my last period I had sex with my boyfriend and used a condom. Afterwards he told me that he thought some semen had come out the bottom. What is the possibility of me being pregnant and is abortion the only option? I can't have my parents find out but I can't be pregnant.

Heather Corinna replies:

If the condom broke -- which is the only way semen would be coming out of the bottom of the condom -- then you were at a high risk of pregnancy. On the other hand, if your boyfriend seemed to think the condom looked intact, but just had fluids on the outside/bottom of it, he may have been mistaking his fluids for yours -- during sexual arousal, women produce fluids as well.

Either way, it sounds clear that you may have had a risk here, and you need to find a way to deal with that. You either need to find a little money or a little time: no ifs, ands or buts.

Ideally, I'll tell anyone that if they do not have a way to get sexual healthcare when they need it, nor the means for items like pregnancy tests, that the very best choice to make is to NOT have the kinds of sex where any or all of those things really are needs. So, from here on out, if your time and money situation is such that getting this stuff is impossible, I'd strongly advise you to hold off on genital sex until they are not only things you can obtain, but which you can get fairly easily, okay? At this point, that should also include being able to get emergency contraception when you need it if pregnancy is absolutely not something you want -- if a condom breaks, EC is something you can use afterwards (up to 120 hours afterwards) for birth control after the fact. If it has been less than five days since this happened and you do have reason to suspect, or know, that your condom broke, I'd advise EC.

Exiting our Utopia, and assuming it has been more than five days since your risk, is your period late? If your period is not late, there's no need to take a test yet, especially since it may be too soon to get accurate results. But if your period is late -- or in time, it becomes late, it doesn't show up around the time you expect it -- then you will need to have a pregnancy test. If you can't afford it yourself, then perhaps you and your boyfriend can split the ten or fifteen bucks a home pregnancy test costs between you (something he should be more than willing to do). If even that isn't doable, then you're going to need to make the time to get to a doctor's office or clinic to get a test done there: many sexual health clinics offer pregnancy testing for free.

It's really important to do that test sooner rather than later once a period is late. If you are pregnant, the time window is relatively small in terms of figuring out what to do, whether you would choose to abort or choose to remain pregnant. With abortion, the window is small in which you can get a legal abortion, and sooner is always better. Sooner also gives you the option of a medical, rather than surgical, abortion, if you prefer. So that you understand the difference, both early medical and surgical abortion cost the same -- usually around $600 in most places, but sometimes a bit less, and sometimes more -- but surgical abortion involves a surgical procedure, and medical abortion is done with an oral medication. Both also involve office visits and a doctor's supervision. Neither are painless or easy, but done early, neither are usually highly painful either. Both types of abortions also would include counseling for you, before and after, and abortion clinics are another place where you can usually get a free pregnancy test (and getting a test done at an abortion clinic does not mean you have to choose abortion if you do not want to).

But no, abortion isn't your only option. You can also choose to remain pregnant and have a baby, and either parent a child yourself, or put a child up for adoption. Should you choose to do either of those things, you will still want to know as soon as you can if you are pregnant, because you'll want to start pre-natal care to assure that both you and the fetus/infant are and stay as healthy as you can be throughout a pregnancy. With adoption, too, infants tend to be adopted out more readily than older children, so making adoption arrangements in advance is critical: too, adoption agencies or adoptive parents will cover your costs from the point an arrangement is made. Obviously, if you remain pregnant, your parents are going to know, but I'd suggest you not make that your only consideration when choosing what to do: you'll want to think about what really feels most right for you, and what you think is in the best interest of a possible child, when you make that choice. Your parents being mad at you won't last a very long time, but reproductive choices are something we have to live with our whole lives, so it's important we make them with that in mind, rather than just our immediate concerns.

So, there's the straight answer. Obviously, if you've a late period, you need to find a way to start with a pregnancy test, and again, don't put it off: work it out. If you're not pregnant, you want to know now so that you don't worry about something endlessly which you've no cause for worry over. if you are, you need to know soon so that you can figure out what you want to do to manage that.

Lastly, from here on out, if pregnancy absolutely is not something you can deal with, the very smartest choice you could make would be to hold off on sex until even a small risk of that is manageable: you might want to have you and your boyfiend take a look at this. The next best choice would be to be sure you're always using a reliable method of birth control properly and consistently. Condoms can be that, but if they're breaking, chances are you're not using them correctly -- be sure if that's your method that your partner is putting them on correctly and that you're using extra latex-safe lubricant with the condom, not just the piddly amount that's on the condom in the package. It'd also be wise to use a backup method: that might be something like the pill, or it might be having a prescription for emergency contraception handy just in case: your doctor can write you one to have on hand at any time.

If you do turn out to be pregnant and need some extra help making these choices, again, an abortion clinic will have counselors on hand to help you figure out what choice is best. Too, we're always glad to help out with more one-on-one discussion at our message boards.

written 22 Sep 2007 . updated 10 Jan 2013

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