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The Psychology of Dealing with an Unplanned Pregnancy

Working as an OB/GYN consultant for more than two decades, has meant that I have met with all sorts of women, from different walks of life, for whom their pregnancies meant different things.

I have seen planned pregnancies, which went perfectly according to plan, unplanned pregnancies that have been huge game-changers, but also as a fetal medicine specialist, I have seen planned pregnancies, that sadly didn’t go according to the perfect plan.

Additionally, these days because of contraception and careers, women are far more likely to try to time the entrance of a little one into their life to suit other aspects of their lives. However, unplanned pregnancies happen all the time, so being better equipped to deal with this situation psychologically will hopefully help you make the best decision for the rest of your life.

Accept that you are in shock

If you have just discovered that you are pregnant, and you hadn’t planned it, then you need to accept that you are in shock, with feelings ranging from being thrilled and delirious to being negative and confused. This is a phase that you should try to accept, and then wait for the most intense emotions that have surfaced to subside, after a few days.

Be honest about your own feelings

Allow yourself to experience the rollercoaster of emotions, accepting them and letting them come and go, as they will. Be aware of feelings that trigger actual physical reactions in you, pay special attention to those ones. Write down these emotions in a private notebook, so that after a few days or so, you can reference them and feel which are now true and which seem less important.

Trust your gut

Although it may be challenging, try to put aside outside issues, such as a job, education, and family opinions, and tune into whatever is in your gut — your gut feeling. Write this down privately also.

If you are in a committed relationship, there may be conflicts about your news. Do remember that your partner is most likely in shock too, so be sure to give everything a little bit of time to settle down.

Every time a strong gut feeling arises, focus on it, be truthful with yourself, and if possible, write it down.

Visions of life

Everyone has visions of how their life would be if they could attain the best; a life that they feel is close to perfection. Don’t be afraid of evaluating these visions, but also know that not everyone accomplishes their perfect vision of life. When you’re ready talk to your partner about his/her visions, and see if you have some middle ground or not.

Face your fears

Even women who have planned pregnancies in what appears to be the perfect situation, in terms of health, relationship and money, go through fears of not being a good enough Mom. On top of that, other fears, which are normal, are what if your child has a birth defect or you feel overwhelmed by the prospect of giving birth.

Remember that we can’t control all aspects of our lives, and as you move through this process, be honest about what your gut feeling is really telling you: this is your true, personal psychology for dealing with your unplanned pregnancy.

Try visualization

Visualization is a very helpful tool for many life situations. Visualize yourself in your home with your new baby — how does that feel? Visualize yourself walking to your local shop or cafĂ© with your baby in her pram. Visualize whatever seems natural to you, this should trigger more genuine gut feelings.

Seek non-judgemental support

Talk to those around you whom you know to be non-judgemental, supportive and balanced. This type of support is so important.

Be honest about your own family background

If you had a happy childhood, it may be easier for you to accept this surprise into your life. Yet psychologically, if you did not have such an easy childhood, and your gut tells you that you would love to be a Mom, then seeking support and perhaps, counseling will help you step into this role and embrace it, which could be very healing for you.

Seek professional help

Once you feel you have had time to go through some of this process, then it may help to clarify all of the feelings that you have been dealing with, if you speak to a non-judgemental professional, who is also going to be a neutral person in your life.

Dealing with self-doubts

Even after all of this, you may still have some nagging self-doubts. Psychologically, depending on your support network, these may be stronger and more difficult to cope with. Remember that no parent is perfect, if that is the route you decide to choose, and there is no perfect time. Raise these self-doubts with the professional you choose to attend and deal honestly with them. That way you will know if they have any real foundation or not.

Pregnancy is a very personal experience

Whether planned or unplanned, pregnancy is a very personal experience. Trust that you have psychologically and truthfully assessed your own unique situation.

The Psychology of Dealing with an Unplanned Pregnancy


Dr. Shane Higgins

Dr. Shane Higgins is an OB/GYN consultant based in the National Maternity Hospital, Holles Street, Dublin, Ireland. His sub-specialty is Fetal Medicine. He also lectures in University College Dublin.


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APA Reference
Higgins, D. (2018). The Psychology of Dealing with an Unplanned Pregnancy. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 25, 2019, from https://psychcentral.com/blog/the-psychology-of-dealing-with-an-unplanned-pregnancy/
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych Central.com. All rights reserved.