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Breaking the News of an Unplanned Pregnancy

Whether you are married, in a long-term relationship, in a new relationship, in a casual relationship or coming to the end of a relationship, breaking the news of an unexpected or unplanned pregnancy to the father, or indeed to close family members, can be extremely difficult. In fact, until you have the conversation, it can hang over you, creating stress and anxiety to the point that you may find it difficult to process your own emotions and work out how you really feel.

By planning the conversation in advance, you can at least ensure that you are prepared to break the news in a way you are comfortable with, something which will hopefully benefit all involved.

It is important to note that there should be no stigma attached to an unplanned pregnancy. According to Gov.UK, as many of 45% of pregnancies and one third of births in England may be unplanned. You should also note that whatever the father or indeed other family members may say, the future of the pregnancy is ultimately your decision – although ideally you will work through everything together, you are the one who is pregnant and no one has the right to tell you what to do.

Step one – consider your own feelings

Even for those couples who painstakingly plan a pregnancy, there is rarely a “perfect” time to be pregnant. The chances of all the stars aligning at any one time are pretty slim: reality is imperfect and in all likelihood there will be a personal, financial, emotional, familial, career or health reasons why you might greet the realisation of your pregnancy with mixed feelings. And even if all of the above conditions are indeed perfect, it is still possible to feel levels of anxiety you hadn’t expected.

Don’t be afraid if you have sudden reservations; they are normal, healthy even. After all, your body is preparing to bring new life into the world, and if that doesn’t make you stop to think, not much else ever will. However, if you are finding the thought of being pregnant and having a child overwhelming, speaking with your GP, or a counsellor, therapist or trusted friend could help you work through your emotions.

Don’t wait too long to tell the important people

Unless you have specific concerns related to your emotional or physical wellbeing, you should tell the father and your family about the pregnancy as soon as is reasonable. If you are still digesting the information to some extent and are unsure about how you wish to proceed, you can explain this to anyone you tell. If you wait and withhold the information your loved ones may feel as if they have been excluded. Ultimately if you are all on the same page – you, the child’s father, and any family members you plan to tell at first – it can really help with your ability to move forward.

Prepare for and rehearse breaking the news

In what is likely to be the first of many lists relating to your pregnancy, you should try writing down bullet points of all the things you would like to say when breaking the news. You may then wish to rehearse speaking these words as it will help prevent you from becoming tongue-tied at the important moment. Try and be as clear and direct as possible as this will reduce the scope for confusion.

Plan the right moment

It is unlikely to help anyone if you break the news on the spur of the moment or at an inopportune time, such as when your partner is about to leave for work or go into an important Zoom meeting. By breaking the news at a suitable moment, not only can you be sure that you will have the time to communicate everything you want to say, you can also give your partner or family member the time and space they need to digest the news and ask you all the questions they need to ask.

Find the right place

Just as important as finding the right time is finding the right place to break the news. Ideally this should be somewhere quiet and private such as a garden, secluded park space or comfortable room in your own home. If you have any concerns about your physical or emotional safety, you should aim to break the news in a space where you have privacy but also have the ability to leave or seek help if necessary.

Break the news face-to-face (if possible)

If at all possible, you should break the news face-to-face as this is not only respectful of the person you are telling, it also allows you to read their facial expressions and body language while ensuring that the conversation stays “real”; breaking big news over the telephone or via a video call can have an air of unreality to it.

Be open and honest

Whatever you are feeling – excited, overjoyed, anxious, conflicted, scared – it is important that you are able to be open and honest about the situation. You may even wish to discuss specifics such as financial or health concerns. For a conversation to be open and honest, both parties will need to be frank about their feelings. The creation of new life is too important for people to conceal or disguise their true feelings.

Be ready to listen

Your partner and family members should be patient and ready to listen to you, and, likewise, you should also be patient and ready to listen to them. It is likely that their questions and concerns at this time will be much the same as yours. For example, it is likely that you will all ask the following:

  • How do I/you feel?
  • Do I/you/we really want a baby?
  • How will my/our life change?
  • How will you (my partner) change?
  • How will our relationship change?
  • What are my/our options?
  • What will be different?
  • What will remain the same?
  • How will I/you/we afford it?

Stay calm

An unplanned pregnancy can be a real shock and as such can sometimes elicit a short-lived negative or hysterical response in the person receiving the news. Although this can be very upsetting, it is important to remember that shock is a natural reaction and is likely to fade over the subsequent days after first hearing the news.

It may be difficult, but try to stay as calm as possible and be sensitive to the fact that it can take time to digest significant news. If the conversation becomes overly negative, if you are getting angry, or if you feel even remotely unsafe, you should bring the discussion to an end and continue at a later date.

Emphasise that you are in it together

Bringing a new child into the world affects both you and your partner, as well as your extended families. Try to use language that emphasises your togetherness. For example, use words like “we” and “us” when discussing things that impact you both. Words such as “I”, “me” and “you” may only amplify any potential for conflict and division.

Summary

Sometimes the best things happen when we are least expecting them and while ‘big news’ may initially come as a shock, with time and careful communication you, your partner and your loved ones will almost certainly be able to work together toward the right decisions and outcomes.

Stay calm; remember that you are the one who will carry and give birth to the baby, and ultimately, other people’s opinions are just opinions – they don’t have to affect you unless you let them.

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