You may feel desperate to end this pregnancy as soon as possible. But this is one of the most significant decisions you'll ever make, so give yourself some time to consider it gently and carefully.
Or you might feel pleased and excited, despite the circumstances. At last there's someone very close to you you can love, who might grow to love you too. This pregnancy might give you the motivation to keep on holding on. It might be helping you survive. It's important to look at this as realistically as possible, to think about the pressure a situation like that puts upon a child, and work out how you're going to handle it.
Other people might pressure you, but this is a decision you need to be at peace with. Please don't let yourself become one of the many people traumatized by being forced into a decision that is not right for you. If it's at all possible, find a counsellor (see also How to Find a Counsellor or Therapist) to help you through the decision-making process.
And the bottom of the sea can be a strange place
In my experience, there's the noise of changing feelings on top, like waves, and a deep gut instinct below, like the shape of the sea-bed. Don't be surprised if you're too numb to know how you feel. There are some ideas for finding how you feel below. It may help you to read about the feelings and thoughts of others in these circumstances (see below). You can talk and find support from other people who are, or have been, in the same circumstances at the topic-specific online support groups mentioned below or the Pregnancy and Parenting Forum at Pandora's Aquarium.
When you think about each option, ask yourself if it's what you want, what that deep gut instinct tells you, or what you feel you should do. As you ask more detailed questions and find out the answers, what decision do you keep coming back to and why? If what you want and what you feel you should do, or can do, don't match, take a good look at support options. Can the issues you have with the option you want be overcome with help? Can you get that help? Remember that you didn't choose to have this choice! You're not to blame for any sadness, confusion or fear you feel. Be as kind to yourself as you can be.
This Pregnancy Options Workbook site is very comprehensive and helpful. It covers many topics that overlap with topics here, so you might want to refer to it again when reading other pages here. Here's another site that contains a lot of information and support about making a decision. This is a support board for women experiencing an unplanned pregnancy to talk about their options with others who'll understand. It also has a link to a site for teenagers facing unplanned pregnancy - TeenChoice. Another site with stories from teenagers dealing with unplanned pregnancy is Stand Up Girl. It has links to a couple of helplines you might find helpful. You might also find these page about challenges for pregnant teenagers or being Young Pregnant and Parenting useful. The American Pregnancy Helpline is free and confidential helpline with email helpline too firstname.lastname@example.org. It also has a Guys Corner. Another Optionline 24/7 Helpline.You can get help working out what is best for you from Sexual Health and Family Planning Centres, Women's Health Centres and other counselling services. This National Family Planning Page has a good set of links for Australian services. The Finding Out and Telling page here also has useful links.
Sexual Health and Family Planning Centres have information and questionnaires to help you consider different options. Take your time going through these questions - looking at them all at once can be overwhelming, so look after yourself with all the gentleness you can. Here are some good examples:
Pregnancy Information and Options (SHFPACT)
Pregnancy Decision Questionaire (SHFPACT)
Pregnancy Information and Options (Planned Parenthood USA)
Abortion Information and Questions to Consider (Planned Parenthood USA)
Adoption Information and Questions to Consider (Planned Parenthood USA)
Parenting Information and Questions to Consider (Planned Parenthood USA)
Being pregnant through rape involves some extra considerations:
1a). Do you think you'll be in more danger because of this pregnancy?
b). Can you get help to keep safe?
2a). How do you think you'll you deal with people knowing you're pregnant?
b) Do you plan to tell anyone that you were raped?
c). If so who will you tell and when and how will you tell them?
Again, please see the Finding Out and Telling page here for more information. Consider what emotional support you have, or can find, to help with any negative reactions you might encounter.
3a). Could the pregnancy be the result of other, consenting, intercourse?
b). Do you plan to have DNA tests done to determine the paternity of your child?
If you were raped by your intimate partner you might not be sure if the pregnancy is the result of rape or consensual sex. This could affect your feelings about the pregnancy. If you had unprotected consensual sex near the time of the rape, you might not know who the biological father is. For information about calculating the date of conception and due date for your pregnancy see this page. To calculate the approximate date of conception, due date and age of the baby see this page.
DNA testing after the baby's born is relatively simple and samples can be collected at home. In Australia costs for testing start at around $200.
Before a baby's born DNA testing is more complicated because blood can't be taken directly from a fetus. Non-invasive tests using only maternal blood aren't able to accurately determine paternity. Paternity can be accurately determined by chorionic villi sampling (CVS) and amniocentesis.
In CVS, guided by ultrasound, an OB-GYN (specialist pregnancy doctor) uses a catheter through the vagina or a long, hollow needle inserted through the abdomen (depending on the position of the fetus) to collect cells from the chorionic villi that will make up the placenta.
In Amniocentesis, guided by ultrasound, an OB-GYN uses a long needle inserted through the abdomen to collect a sample of the amniotic fluid that surrounds the fetus. CVS can be performed between the 10th and 14th week of pregnancy. Amniocentesis can be performed between the 14th and 22nd week of pregnancy. There's a slightly increased risk of miscarriage after CVS and amniocentesis. Both are invasive tests which may result in infection for the mother or some danger to the baby from the inserted needle or catheter. The risks are small but, as for any medical procedure, you'll need to talk them over with your doctor.
Talking with a counsellor about the possible results of a paternity test and how it will affect you is a good idea. If paternity's important to your decision, then please insist on being given the information you need to decide whether or not to get a prenatal DNA paternity test. You need a doctor who understands and respects what matters to you. What matters to you, matters!
If you do miscarry after amniocentesis or CVS, please remember that there are many reasons miscarriages occur. You're not to blame ever for the decisions you've made. You're doing your best, with the best of intentions. The person to blame for any negative outcome is the person who raped you. For more information and support please see the Loss page here.
5. If you were raped by a family member, how likely are you to have a disabled child?
When your DNA and someone else's come together in a child, what matters in determining the child's traits are what genetic characteristics you both share and whether they're dominant or recessive. Dominant traits can be active in a child when only one biological parent has that genetic characteristic. Recessive traits are only active if both parents have that characteristic. When you're related to the other biological parent you're more likely to share the same genetic characteristics. But not all recessive traits are bad! Here's a page which gives some examples of dominant and recessive traits. This is a news article about the genetic risks of cousins marrying, which might give you some idea of the risks you face. I've been unable to find much information about genetic risks for closer relatives. If you're concerned about the effects on your potential child's genetics from you being raped by a family member, genetic counselling might be a good idea. You can start looking from here for genetic counselling services in Australia. This page contains more information about genetic counselling and services internationally.
6. How do you think you'll cope with the pregnancy while you're dealing with trauma from the rape?
It's very hard to look after yourself when you're traumatized. It's very common to have trouble concentrating and organising yourself, thinking about being pregnant and being with other people. This can make it hard to find the organisational ability, courage and strength to attend prenatal appointments and birth classes. It's also common for people who've been raped to have trouble eating properly. This can be complicated by "morning" sickness in pregnancy. Many people who've been raped feel betrayed by their body and find it hard to look after.
It's very important that you get good prenatal care from people who understand the difficulties you're facing. Remember you have nothing to be ashamed of - you're not at all to blame for any of these common responses to trauma.
What does good prenatal care involve? Basically it's about looking after your health and monitoring the health and development of the fetus. There are some medical appointments and tests that will help you stay on track. You can find more information about prenatal check-ups and care here. You'll need to think about what you eat and drink not drinking alcohol and not smoking. If you need help in not drinking, this Australian page may help or you may get help from Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) in Australia or internationally. If you need help to quit smoking, this page may help. It's even harder than normal to deal with habits and addictions while you're traumatized. Please get all the help you can! You can find some information about nutrition and recommended nutritional supplements during pregnancy here. You can find some information about exercise during pregnancy here and also on the A Pregnancy After This? page here. These are great goals and you should seriously aim for them, but please be gentle with yourself if you're finding them hard to reach. Many people with less to deal with than you still have trouble following all the guidelines!
If you have trouble following these guidelines because of your own trauma and illness and you lose the baby, please remember there are many reasons for pregnancy losses. Many women feel responsible and question their behaviour, but you're not to blame. You're no more to blame for this, even if it is related to prenatal care, than someone is for not being able to walk on a broken leg. The person who carries all responsibility for these natural consequences of you being raped is the person who raped you. Please see the Loss page here for more information and support.
You might like to search for post-natal or post-partum depression or look at this page from Australia's National Health and Medical Research Council's page on how pregnancy can affect you emotionally. It's a challenging time for anyone, so be extra kind and gentle with yourself.
You don't have to do this alone. These pages might help you find a pregnancy support service near you:
The National Pregnancy Support Helpline 1800 422 213
Pregnancy Support Services Links from the Australian Government's Health Insite
Pregnancy Help Australia
Pregnancy Help Australia Links to Services in Different Australian States and Territories
ACT - Karinya House (02) 6259 8998
SA - Louise Place Phone: 08 8272 6811, fax: 08 8272 9327, email: email@example.com
QLD - Glugor House, Boystown 07 3203 0235 4 Airlie Ave, Deception Bay, QLD 4508, fax: 07 3204 1985, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Open Family Australia
Pregnancy Support Services from the Evangelical Child and Family Agency - US
D.A.Blodgett for Children - Pregnancy Support Services - US
Canadian Association of Pregnancy Support Services CAPSS
Crisis Pregnancy Support Centers Links - Canada
Option Line Find A Pregnancy Support Center - Canada
NCT (National Childbirth Trust) Pregnancy and Parenting Support, Including National Helplines, Courses, Online Forums, Local Branches with Activities etc. - UK
Pregnancy and Childbirth - UK Sources of Information and Support
Pregnancy Help Everybody.co.nz - NZ
Coffee Group Pregnancy to Parenting - NZ
Pregnancy Counselling Services - NZ
7. How can I deal with having a child when I'm still a child myself?
These pages might help you think about it:
Parenting As a Teenager
Life in the Fast Lane: Teenage Parenting
You can also read more about parenting on the A Pregnancy After This? page here. If you're worried about finishing your education or finding work the Study and Work page here might help.
8. How do you think you'll cope with things that remind you of the rape during labour and birth?
You may find this page about the effects of sexual assault on pregnancy and birth useful. Awareness is growing among health professionals that sexual assault affects many women's experiences of pregnancy and birth. If you can, it's a good idea to talk this through with a counsellor and with the people who will be giving you medical care during your pregnancy and the birth. You may also find some books that help, such as Survivor Moms: Women's Stories of Birthing, Mothering and Healing after Sexual Abuse, also reviewed here.
9. How do you think you'll relate to the child?
b). How do you think other people, especially family members and older children, will relate to the child?
c). How do you think your child might react when they find out how they were conceived?
d). How do you think you might deal with that?
Many people are concerned that the baby might look like the person who raped them and worry about how they'll react to that. It's a reasonable concern and a good one to discuss with a counsellor. This was written by a mother of a child who was conceived through rape.
I've recently responded to a writer who needed some information about raising a rape-conceived child. It's stimulated a lot of thought for me about the sense I have made of my own situation over the years. I wanted to share and discuss, and I thought it might also be a handy topic for people in the future.
He asked me this: Did you worry that your child would remind you of the attack. And I said this: Absolutely, and that was a factor in considering adoption. I felt that the child shouldn't have to live with my inability to deal with reminders. I feared that the child might resemble him, and that this would bring up what happened every time I looked at it. Eventually I decided that my love for my baby was much stronger than any reminders could be. Fortunately, I was right. How could a small, mean vicious act possibly compare with or even diminish my child? As soon as she was born, I just knew her eyes would be light blue like his. She resembles him very much. But suddenly I didn't care anymore. I saw past it - these were the features of my beautiful daughter.
The Forgotten Victims of Rape is a page from a woman who was conceived in rape and started a support group called Stigma, which could help you understand things from a child's perspective. This page about talking to children about difficult history, including being conceived through rape might help you. This forum discusses whether to tell a child they were conceived in rape and so does this one A Mother's Song talks about telling a child. This Adoptive Parenting Blog talks about reasons not to tell. This article suggests its usually better to tell and talks about how and when.
10. What contact could you have with the rapist because of legal and child support issues?
b). If you're a male victim of rape by a woman who becomes pregnant, will you have to pay child support?
In Australia, the law states that parental contact must be based on the best interests of the child. Legal considerations include "7. The need to protect the child from the effects of exposure to physical or psychological harm" and "9. any family violence involving the child or a member of the child's family". See these pages for more information about violence and the child support system, possible parental rights of rapists, and legal considerations about the best interests of the child. If you decide to place your child for adoption you'll need to be aware of possible paternal rights in the adoption process. Laws vary in different jurisdictions. If this is a concern for you, please contact your local community legal centre in Australia, the UK, or internationally. You might also find good advice and help at your local women's information and referral centre, or women's legal service.
If you're a man who's been raped and you have questions about child support or the future safety of your biological child, you'll probably get the best support and advice from services like:
the Service Assisting Male Survivors of Sexual Assault (SAMSSA) in Australia,
or the services they link to
those publicly linked to at Herodes' Cave
The Men's Project - Canada
M Power - Supporting Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse - UK
Male Survivor - US
You can also get help from the rape crisis services linked to from the Crisis Links page here.
When you've thought through these questions, think about your options:
1. keeping the baby
2. continuing the pregnancy but giving the baby to someone else to parent through adoption or
3. foster care
4. or terminating the pregnancy.
Read what you can about these options and listen to your ongoing and informed gut instinct. You're likely to need to go back and forth between the practical details and your overall feeling about what you want to do. Take your time and be gentle with yourself as you work on this very stressful, difficult decision.
If you're thinking of keeping the baby, talk to Centrelink on 136150 – they have social workers who can assess the situation, provide support and tell you about payments that might be available. You can also look for support through hotlines and your local rape crisis service (an international list) and pregnancy support services. This page about rape-related pregnancy has some information about support services in Australia. If you're not in Australia, talking to your local social security office could be a good place to start. You can also search the internet and your phone book for pregnancy support services near you.
If you plan to keep your baby but, when it's born, find you just can't cope, think about foster care. You can find more information about foster care in each state below:
VIC Department of Children, Youth and Families - Foster Care
NSW Department of Community Services - Foster Care
QLD Department of Child Safety - Foster Care
SA Department of Families and Communities - Foster Care
WA Department for Child Protection - Foster Care
TAS Department of Health and Human Services - Foster Care
ACT Department of Disability, Housing and Community Services - Foster Care
NT Department of Health and Families - Foster Care
NZ Child, Youth and Families in the Ministry of Social Development - Foster Care
You can also contact your local foster care association for information. Please ask for any help you need - you're dealing with something very complex and difficult and you've got nothing to be ashamed of!
If you're thinking of adoption, you can find more information about the process in each state below:
VIC Department of Children, Youth and Families - Adoption
NSW Department of Community Services - Adoption
QLD Department of Child Safety - Adoption
SA Department for Families and Communities - Adoption
WA Department for Child Protection - Adoption
WA Adoption Research and Counselling Service
TAS Department of Health and Human Services - Adoption
ACT Department of Disability, Housing and Community Services - Adoption
NT Department of Health and Families - Adoption
NZ Child, Youth and Families in the Ministry of Social Development - Adoption
For more resources and information about adoption in Australia and New Zealand, see this page. For more information about types of adoption and the process in the US, Canada and UK please click these links. You can search the net or look at your phone book for adoption services near you. For information on the history and cultural variations of adoption, see this page. For forums discussing adoption search the internet for "adoption forums". Here's one personal story and thoughts about rape-related pregnancy from a woman who was raped and placed her child for adoption. If you're thinking about adoption, this resources page is very helpful. This page from Open Adoption and this Decision to Make: What Happens After Adoption? page might also offer useful support and information. If you're in the US, this page from Genealogy Today might also be useful. You might also be interested in these stories by people who were adopted.
If you're planning to give birth (either keeping the baby or placing it for adoption) then you might find this list of people who can help useful.
The strongest recommendation I've had is to employ a doula. A doula is a female companion who helps you through pregnancy. Doulas help you prepare your body for birth, find you information and act as advocates through pregnancy, birth, and beyond. They're often the most affordable and practical way to get continuity of care from someone who understands your situation. This site, Empowered for Birth - Canberra Young Mums, might help you understand what a doula does so you can look for similar services in your own area. A doula might be especially helpful if you're a teenager or young mother. Here's some more information about doulas:
One Woman's Story of Pregnancy with a Doula
Wikipedia - Doula
What is a Doula? And why do so Many Women Want One?
Finding a Doula in Australia
Comprehensive Listing of Doulas in Australia
Doula Information for NZ Parents
Doula UK - Find a Doula
Doulas of North America
American Pregnancy - Having a Doula
Doula Care Canada
Canadian Parents - My Experience with a Doula.
If you're thinking about terminating the pregnancy, the first thing to know is that there's a shorter time frame for this decision. Induced abortion is legal under certain conditions at different stages of pregnancy and illegal under others in all Australian states and territories. This page explains the current laws. The risks involved also increase the further you are into the pregnancy. A good source for information and help with terminations both in Australia and internationally is Marie Stopes International. You can find termination services near you by searching for "abortion" or "termination pregnancy" and adding your state or local area. You may find this Pre-Abortion yahoo support group for women thinking about terminating their pregnancies helpful. This is another online support group for women thinking about termination, which is also for women who've already had a termination. If you need to terminate the pregnancy for serious medical reasons this page may help. If you're worried about the risks of having a termination, the best thing to do is to talk to your doctor about the likely risks for you, since statistical risks mightn't give the best picture of your likely outcomes. There are many pages on the internet about the statistical risks of termination, but not all of them are reliable. I've tried the best I can to sift them for you on this page. The information there might reassure you or give you things to ask your doctor.
Many women who place their children for adoption, or terminate their pregnancy feel grief and sadness over the loss of their child, even though they may also feel relieved and that they've made the best decision for the circumstances. Please be gentle with yourself - a right decision is not always easy, and can carry with it painful consequences. You did not create these circumstances and, whatever your choice, the pain you feel is not your fault. There is more about this in the section here on Loss. After a termination, you may find this online after abortion support group very helpful.
If you're a man who's been raped and the person who raped you, or someone you were forced to have sex with, is pregnant please see the next page, Deciding What to Do: Men.
Feelings and Thoughts:
Please be aware that this section may be upsetting and contain graphic details.
ProjectBecky - tells Becky's story. Becky had a termination.
Hope for Healing - tells Lori's story. Lori kept her baby.
A Mother's Song - this mother placed her son for adoption.
Voices of Strength: Pregnancy After Rape (there's a pro-life ad. on this page)
Adolescent Acquaintance Rape Survivors' Experiences of Unwanted Pregnancy (a thesis)
Pregnancy.org My Adoption Story - from a rape-related pregnancy
Letter from a Mother to a Rape-Conceived Child
From a Mother Who Kept Her Child
From someone who had a termination:
I told two people after I found out I was pregnant after the rape; one a good friend from school, (college) and my first love's mom. Since they both knew I had been r*ped, and there was no other way/person that could of been the father, it was pretty much something to deal with. I will say, and I don't normally talk about this, the abortion was a choice to make, and the other alternatives were not feasible, so I made the choice. I felt that my own body had betrayed me, that in a sense he was still in control of my body, just like during the r*pe, and I could do nothing else. But there was a night, and I feel safe enough to put this down, after I made the appointment, and rounded up the money and took the time off of work, all the practical things, I drove down to an old bridge over a fairly large river, parked my car, locked my purse in it, and walked out on to that bridge, and though very hard about jumping. The only reason I didn't is my first love died in the water and I did not want his family to have to deal with another death, but there for about 10 minutes or so it was iffy. So I had the abortion, and those two people did not condemn me but I did and it has taken so very long to get past that and I am not sure I am yet.
Photos from Cepolina.