Definition & Overview

According to statistics, almost half of pregnancies every year are either unplanned or unwanted. An unwanted pregnancy certainly places a woman in a predicament. How she handles the situation will largely depend on her age, emotional stability, and support she receives during this difficult period.

In some cases, the pregnancy may not be the only problem. Other factors, such as diseases, may further complicate the situation. Fortunately, most women today have quite a number of options when dealing with an unwanted pregnancy.

Women in this situation need to know their available options and they must study each option carefully before making a final decision. It’s important to realize that although many of the options that will be discussed in this article are available in most countries, some of them are not. Other factors, such as religious beliefs and existing laws may limit a woman’s choices.

Cause of Condition

Millions of women around the world are unable to conceive a child. However, many more have a working reproductive system that can be activated at the right time. An unwanted pregnancy can occur if a woman’s reproductive system is triggered when she does not plan or want to become pregnant.

This can happen due to a variety of reasons, such as unprotected sex, rape, or a simple miscalculation in family planning techniques. To date, none of the available contraceptives or family planning techniques is 100 percent effective. Some may be more effective than others are, but none can provide a 100% guarantee.

Key Symptoms

Women who have undergone a previous pregnancy will be able to identify the symptoms. However, every woman is different, which is why some may display symptoms while others won’t or will have different symptoms. Additionally, many of the common symptoms of early pregnancy are similar to menstruation. Some women may mistake them as such and not realize that they are in fact pregnant.

It’s important to note that although the following are common symptoms, they do not confirm a pregnancy. Undergoing a pregnancy test will confirm the condition.

Pregnancy signs and symptoms usually start when the fertilized egg attaches to the uterus.

  • Cramping and vaginal spotting - One of the early signs of pregnancy is cramping, which is very similar to cramps a woman experiences right before menstruation. Vaginal spotting, meanwhile, is also referred to as implantation bleeding that can take place once the egg has been fertilized. Other than blood spots, women may also notice a thick white vaginal discharge.

  • Enlargement of the breasts - Pregnant women will undergo hormonal changes during pregnancy. One of the results of these changes is the enlargement of the breasts, specifically the dark area around the nipples called the areola.

  • Morning sickness - It’s typical for pregnant women to experience morning sickness, but this doesn’t happen to every woman. Many believe that the condition is caused by hormonal changes, but the exact cause is yet to be identified.

  • Missed menstrual period - It’s typical for pregnant women to miss the next menstrual period after conception. However, a missed period does not automatically mean that a woman is pregnant. Many factors and medical conditions, such as polycystic ovary syndrome, can cause a woman to miss her period.

  • The need to urinate frequently - Although this isn’t one of the early symptoms of pregnancy, it will happen in due course. The primary cause of this condition is the hormonal changes that the woman go through during pregnancy.

  • Dizziness and Fatigue - With all the changes happening in a woman’s body during pregnancy, it’s normal for them to have a general feeling of weakness.

Who to See & Types of Treatment Available

If you’re concerned that you might be pregnant, the only way to confirm it is to undergo a pregnancy test. You can do this by purchasing a pregnancy test kit at a local pharmacy, consulting your doctor, or visiting a family planning clinic.

Once the pregnancy is confirmed, you’ll need to decide on the next step forward. Your available options at this point are:

  • Continue with the pregnancy and keep the baby
  • Continue with the pregnancy and have the baby adopted
  • Abort the pregnancy

Deciding on which option is the best for your situation may be difficult. A lot of factors will come into play and these typically include your current financial situation, career, emotional stability, readiness to raise a child, religion, and personal beliefs. In some cases, the opinion of parents, friends, or other family members may also affect the decision.

The first two choices are what some would consider as the most humane. However, it’s also important to remember that pregnancy can be one of the most dangerous periods of a woman’s life. Some women decide to terminate the pregnancy if it poses serious health risks.

If you choose the third option, which is to abort the pregnancy, this can be accomplished through medications or surgery, depending on how far the pregnancy has progressed. You’ll also need to consider the risks of such action, such as your health. These days, aborting a pregnancy may be a safe procedure, but it does carry a variety of risks.

In some countries where abortion is legal, the procedure can be performed in abortion clinics or hospitals that offer the services. If the procedure is illegal in a certain country, unlicensed and poorly trained individuals often perform the procedure. Undergoing an abortion in the hands of an untrained individual can put your life at risk and if it’s not legal in your country, you may also face the risk of getting in trouble with the law.


  • U.S. Teenage Pregnancy Statistics: Overall Trends, Trends by Race and Ethnicity and State-by-State Information. New York, NY: The Alan Guttmacher Institute; January 2010

  • Elfenbein DS, Felice ME. Adolescent pregnancy. In: Kliegman RM, Behrman RE, Jenson HB, Stanton BF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 19th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 112

  • Kohler PK, Manhart LE, Lafferty WE. Abstinence-only and comprehensive sex education and the initiation of sexual activity and teen pregnancy. J Adolesc Health. 2008;42:344-351

  • Abma JC et al., Teenagers in the United States: sexual activity, contraceptive use, and childbearing, National Survey of Family Growth 2006–2008, Vital and Health Statistics, 2010, Series 23, No. 30

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