The Pregnancy Panic Companion: When a Pregnancy Test is Positive
You said you or your partner have taken a pregnancy test, and it gave a positive (pregnant) result.
The next step is to see a healthcare provider to verify that result. That person can be a general practitioner, nurse practitioner, or a specifically sexual or reproductive healthcare provider (like an obstetrician, gynecologist and/or abortion clinic, regardless of what choice you or a partner may want to make with a pregnancy).
If your healthcare provider discovers you had a false positive, or misread the result and are not pregnant, there aren't any more steps for you besides just calming down, experiencing however you feel about that result, and then making any changes or adjustments you can moving forward to make scares less likely to happen for you (or your partner) in the future. In the event that finding out you are not pregnant doesn't change your fears of being pregnant, the helps on this page are probably good ones for you.
If your healthcare provider does verify the pregnancy, then your next steps will include choices and steps involved with a pregnancy.
If you're the person pregnant: your next steps are about taking care of yourself while considering and making some of the most basic -- but often difficult and complex -- first choices we need to with a pregnancy. If it's your partner who is pregnant, then your next steps are going to be about taking good care of yourself and supporting -- if they want that from you -- the pregnant person who will be making and primarily living with the choices they will make about their pregnancy.
Take some time to just absorb the fact that there is a pregnancy. Then you'll need to start figuring out if you want to remain pregnant, and either plan to parent or arrange an adoption, or to terminate your pregnancy with an abortion procedure. Remember: any of those choices can be the right choices when they're the choice the person making them feels best about and wants to be making. If you or your partner would like a walkthrough for deeply considering any or all of these options, The Pregnancy Options Workbook is an excellent and supportive resource.
Sound, accurate information about reproductive options for young people is often hard to find, due to bias about some of your options (like abortion or teen parenting) and bias about your age. Access to all your options and where you can find help from them also varies very widely internationally. If the links above don't suit your needs, please feel free to come use one of our direct services, and we can help you find resources or services that will serve you both safely, soundly and with respect. Scarleteen is a pro-choice organization which also extends and provides respect for young people and your right to support and help with any of your reproductive options.
Once you've made the decision about which of those three ways you are going to go, your next steps are the next steps for that particular choice. The healthcare provider, counselor, lawyer or other person or people involved in that choice will tell you about and help walk you through those next steps.
- For next steps if considering or choosing to terminate pregnancy with an abortion procedure, or information about abortion if you or a partner are thinking about it, click here for information about abortion at Scarleteen. If you'd like more information or additional places for sound information about abortion, you can find sound abortion information at the National Abortion Federation, Planned Parenthood or Marie Stopes. If you'd like information about funds for abortion, the National Network of Abortion Funds has an international list for funding help here.
- If considering or choosing to remain pregnant, with the intent to deliver a pregnancy, the next step is to get connected with a healthcare provider to get you started with the care and information you uniquely need for a healthy pregnancy, as well as other resources if you need them, like pubic healthcare or financial assistance with pregnancy or parenting. You can find that kind of care by starting with a general clinic or family doctor, or by seeking out an OB/GYN (and obstetrician and gynecologist). You also have the option of looking into a midwife or doula (that's someone trained to be an educated and supportive helper to someone with a pregnancy) to get started, or to see in tandem with other healthcare providers.
- If considering or choosing to remain pregnant and parent, or information about it if you or a partner are thinking about it, click here. We're also giant fans of The Pushback, a supportive advocacy blog for pregnant or parenting teens (#noteenshame!) from The Massachusetts Alliance on Teen Pregnancy.
- For next steps if considering or choosing to remain pregnant and arrange an adoption, click here.
Some hotlines that provide support for unplanned pregnancy or pro-choice pregnancy options counseling:
- In the United States here is a list of supportive hotlines. Backline is a toll-free hotline that can be used within the United States or Canada: 1-888-493-0092
- In the UK, the hotline for Marie Stopes is: 0845 300 8090; for BPAS (the British Pregnancy Advisory Service: 08457 30 40 30
- In Australia, the SHine SA Sexual Healthline is: 1800 188 171
- In India, Jansankhya Sthirata Kosh (JSK) and the National Population Stabilisation Fund of the health ministry operates this helpline: 1800-11-6555 or 011-6666-5555
If you are the person who is pregnant, here are some things you can do to help yourself:
Even if this is the worst news of ever for you, know that changes are, you have choices and you can and will handle this. There's a lot of talk out there than young people becoming pregnant, being a teen parent, or having an abortion are the end of the world, but that's just not true. A lot of that information is centered in bias, stigma and personal agendas, not facts, respect and support. For the vast majority of people, unplanned or unwanted pregnancy does turn out to be manageable, and so long as you do what you can to make choices that feel most right for you, you can and you will get through this. It might not be easy, and some parts of whatever choices you make might be really freaking hard, but it is, and you are, going to be okay.
Make some me-time. Before you worry, or even think about, who you're going to tell, what you're going to do and how you're going to do it, give yourself some breathing room to just feel the feelings you're having and to start to process them. Once you get started with telling even one other person, or moving forward with any of your next steps, it's going to get harder to get people out of your business so that you can work through some of this on your own and feel however you feel. Unless the timing is such that waiting to do any of that may make one of your choices (like abortion) out of reach for you, just taking a little time on your own can give you a good start on centering everything that comes next on your own wants, needs and feelings, and allow you some room to experience your own feelings with less outside interference.
You'll manage this best by taking good care of yourself, doing things that help you and your body to cope and get centered rather than things more likely to enable or increase your stress or upset. Not sure what "self-care" even means, or need some ideas about things you can do? Check out our big list of ways to care for yourself at Self-Care a La Carte.
Create a support network: Whatever choices you make from here on out, you're going to need some good helpers and supporters. Can you think of some people and resources that'd be on your dream-team of support? Some friends, any family members, a partner, a truly solid online resource or community or two (and one where you know you aren't likely to have to deal with any jerks or trolls), a healthcare provider, a teacher, coach or community leader? Even if you can just think of and find a couple people to start with, you can widen and tailor this net to best meet your unique needs from there.
Only share news about a pregnancy, regardless of what choice you plan to make, with a few people you are sure will be supportive of you and what you want and need: The last thing you need with something this challenging is someone dragging you down, pushing their own wants or ideas on you, or making this more stressful for you, rather than less. In time, and once you have a good team you can count on to support you, you can share this with others if you want or need to (or if it's unavoidable, like it will usually eventually be for someone who stays pregnant and delivers), you can widen that net. But for now, while it's all so fresh, and what you need is help, not sabotage or pressure, stick to the people you know you can count on. If one of the people you're not so sure about is the partner who was the other half of this pregnancy, you are NOT obligated to tell that person, regardless of what choice you make. So, if you don't want to tell them just yet, or even at all, that's okay and is something that gets to be your call.
Clear your plate: An unplanned pregnancy is usually a lot to deal with, both emotionally and practically. It's challenging even if absolutely nothing else in your life is...which is very unlikely. It's more likely this is one more challenge or stressor when you have others already. Anything you can do to do less right now, decrease your stress and limit the things that stress you out, and to make room for some extra time and attention you can give yourself and your needs and feelings around this pregnancy is a good thing. If your class schedule is already a bit too much, see if you can't drop one this semester. If this pregnancy came from a relationship or interaction with someone that itself is stressful rather than supportive, take a break from it for a little while. If where you live is stressful or just doesn't allow you the kind of alone time you need to sort through all of this, see if you can't find somewhere nearby you can go to get that peace and privacy, like a park, public library, or a friend's house they're happy to give you use of for yourself when no one else is home.
If you are feeling beyond your capacity, seek out qualified help. Pregnancy scares and the possibility of pregnancy can be terribly stressful and feel terrifying, and not everyone has a set of life circumstances or the emotional resilience to always deal, or manage it with just friends, a partner or family alone. If you just feel like you can't cope with even this next step or what may come after, see if you can't find a counselor or other qualified support person to add to your support team. OB/GYNs, midwives, doulas or sexual or reproductive health clinics can not only be helpers with your emotional being and mental health, they often will know about what others kinds of help and support are available to you.
Here are some things you can avoid or limit that won't help you out:
Don't jump any more ahead than you have to: Unless you feel like it serves you and is the right thing for you (or that even taking a couple days will limit your access to some choices), you don't have to figure out all, or even any, of your options with a pregnancy right this very second. You can give yourself some time to just start to process this first, and then start to take these other steps once you feel at least a little less shellshocked.
Stay away from nonsupporters as best you can: I said something like this already up top, but I want to say it again, because it's a biggie. There are going to be people -- and you probably know already who some of them are -- who will approach this situation poorly, like by shaming, berating or otherwise abusing you, telling you what they think you should or must do rather than asking how to help you do what YOU want to and can do, scaring you, or by making your pregnancy about themselves or others who aren't you, the person it is actually about. To the best of your ability, you want to stick to your supportive people right now, and steer clear of people you know or suspect won't be supportive.
The only way you have to stay away from some people in this respect may be by not sharing this information with them, either not just yet, or, when that's an option, not ever. People get to have parts of their lives they choose to keep private so they can best take care of themselves and avoid mistreatment. You get to do that with this if and when you want to. Becoming or being pregnant doesn't give anyone extra or new rights to your life, your body, or the choices you want to make with them.
Do NOT beat yourself up about this: One of the most common things I've heard doing options counseling is a whole lot of self-blaming and self-abuse. By all means, we need to own and take responsibility for things in our lives that have been within our control, but taking responsibility isn't about, and doesn't involve, being a total jerk to yourself. No one is going to feel more able to handle something challenging when their self-talk is a whole lot of down-talk, like calling yourself an idiot, or naive or a terrible person. That kind of talk only makes a person feel less capable, not more. You need to do what you can to big yourself up right now, not put yourself down.
If you made any choices here that put you in a spot you didn't want, then from here on out, you can do what you can to change that up moving forward. If there are consequences of your own actions and choices (and I don't mean babies: babies are not a consequence or punishment, they're people, and remaining pregnant and parenting or not isn't a consequence, it's a choice), then you're going to do what you can to deal with those. But all our best choices are usually the ones we make from a place of respect, compassion and kindness, and getting through challenges well, and without doing ourselves or others harm, involves those things, too. Be good to yourself, and make your self-talk supportive and positive: not only will that be way more likely to help you through this, that is also simply what you deserve at any time.
Is it a partner, not you, who's pregnant? Then you'll want to put your focus on taking care of your own emotional needs, and then on being supportive and helpful for the person in this who is, themselves, pregnant. You can pick up some of the helps and not-helps on this page that relate to things like self-care and stress management, and then just ask the other person, if you continue to be involved with them, how you can best help them out. Then, you do whatever it is they offer up that is something you can do and you are willing to do, while still caring for yourself.
What shouldn't you do? Behave like it's you who is pregnant, or like because a pregnancy is partly due to you and your body, it's yours to manage and make choices with. It's not: the choices for someone pregnant truly belong to that person only, so outside whatever ways they have told you they'd like your help or input, you need to let them be the person who gets to own and freely make those choices, even if it's hard for you to do.
If you find you need extra support -- whether that's about a choice your pregnant partner wants to make that you don't like, or just about the stress and confusion of figuring out where to go from here, especially if your partner decides to remain pregnant -- look into programs in your community expressly for teen fathers, or the partners of pregnant people. If you're not sure where to start, or a search engine doesn't show anything near you, you can call into a general community center or a local hospital and ask if they know of anything. Mental health professionals, or your partner's healthcare provider for the pregnancy (be that an abortion provider or a provider for care through a pregnancy and delivery), will also often know these resources, and can provide some extra help or care for you.