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Unplanned pregnancy is amazingly common. Some sources even say that 50 percent (!!!) of pregnancies in the United States were not intended.

There is nothing wrong with that if you are happy about the pregnancy, but those couples who were trying to conceive may have the edge. Planning allows future moms to make positive health changes before trying for a baby. So, does it matter if your pregnancy was unplanned, healthwise? 

Planning the unexpected

All sexually active women of childbearing age risk getting pregnant at some point, because their chosen form of birth control fails or because they may forget to use it. Everyone who uses birth control to prevent pregnancy hopes that it will work, and most assume that there will not be any problems. This is mostly true, but it is always wise to keep the possibility of pregnancy in mind. Some doctors and midwives recommend that any woman who could theoretically get pregnant (any woman with menstrual cycles who has sex sometimes) take folic acid supplements. Refraining from alcohol during the second half of the menstrual cycle is a great practice as well, as alcohol can be really harmful to a newly developing embryo. You may feel you are being overly cautious if you take these steps. Remember that figure as many as half of all pregnancies (that are not terminated) may be unplanned. You are really just doing the responsible thing.

Alcohol

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, FAS, is an illness caused by prenatal exposure to alcohol. You've probably heard about children of alcoholics, and that they can have deformed faces, learning difficulties and other health problems. Did you know that alcohol exposure in the two weeks after conception (before you knew you were pregnant) are hugely important for the baby's development? And did you know that a baby can end up with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome when mom drinks as little as four drinks a week? Coming back to the question whether a pregnancy not being planned is harmful, it is if you have been drinking because you didn't realize you were pregnant. Women who feel these issues may apply to them should discuss their concerns with an OBGYN.

Sexually transmitted diseases

Every sexually active person should, ideally, be getting tested for sexually transmitted diseases annually. Couples who have decided the time is right to try for a baby can add STD testing to their preconception to-do list, along with other stuff like getting up to date on vaccines, taking folic acid, and perhaps losing some weight. If you suddenly find out that you are expecting a baby, you will still benefit from STD testing. Many sexually transmitted diseases can easily be passed on to a baby, and sometimes with terrible consequences. The good news is that some STDs are easily treatable with antibiotics that are safe for pregnant women.

Birth control and prenatal health

Were you using birth control when you got pregnant unexpectedly? You may wonder if the pill (or other hormonal birth control method, like NuvaRing), or your coil has any negative impact on your baby. In the case of the pill, studies have shown that women who get pregnant despite using it don't have to worry that their baby's health will suffer. A coil is more complicated removing a coil during pregnancy can be dangerous, and leaving it in can also be risky. Usually, more careful prenatal monitoring would be the answer, and a decision can be made if the coil's position interferes with the baby.

Your relationship

For some couples, the news of an unplanned pregnancy induces excitement and happiness. Others, however, are not happy at all or have conflicted feelings. Your relationship may suffer if you don't feel the same about the pregnancy as your partner does. Women who had a one-night stand or got pregnant while they were not really in a relationship may be in an easier, or a harder position depending on their own feelings (and perhaps financial situation). Whatever your situation, expecting a baby is a huge change! Seeing a counselor is often helpful for couples who got pregnant unexpectedly, as well as for women who got pregnant with someone they'd rather not see again for whatever reason.

How about you?

Are you currently experiencing an "oops" pregnancy? We'd love to hear your story, if you would like to share. And if you got pregnant unintentionally before, and now have a lovely child, please share your story too!

  • Photo courtesy of 123rf (stock photos)
  • Photo courtesy of 123rf (stock photos)

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