How To Support A Friend Going Through An Unplanned Pregnancy

You may associate an unplanned pregnancy with a teenager facing the consequences of first-time love and lack of healthy boundaries, or the twenty-something who parties recklessly, but in reality, unplanned pregnancy happens to anyone who simply wasn’t thinking of becoming a mother in that moment but did.

By Johanna Duncan4 min read
Pexels/lucas mendes

It may be a married friend who was hoping to focus on her career this year, or the mom who thought she wasn’t going to have any more kids. It’s incredible to witness how people can be so different and yet so alike when it comes to facing unexpected life changes. 

Regardless of what your friend’s specific situation is, certain things remain the same: Her world has been rocked. Personality and upbringing play a big part in how we react to the situation, but without a doubt, a surprise pregnancy can throw anyone in any situation into a panic. 

Listen and Don’t Pry 

Your friend’s first step to accepting the shocking news is to process the information. You may have heard of the flight, fight, or freeze response – women facing an unplanned pregnancy may react with any of them. She may:

  • Freeze: Go completely silent and pretend it isn’t happening.

  • Fight: Get angry. Scream and blame like no other. 

  • Flee: Withdraw. Even if your friend has wonderful friends and family surrounding her, the fear over how others will take the news can easily make her want to isolate herself. 

All reactions are valid, and as her friend, you must simply let her ride the waves. But you can stay close and check in often. Feeling your constant and non-judgmental presence will help your friend realize that she can trust you and count on you through this season. While the first days or weeks may seem frustrating, you’re an observer or perhaps even a passenger in the rollercoaster ride your friend is on. You too may be shaken; that is the natural consequence of empathy, but just keep going.

During this time, listen to your friend, but limit how much advice you give. You can drop words of wisdom here and there, but she is most likely not in a good place to listen just yet. Instead, ask questions that may help her process what is happening. Some good questions are:

Who would you like to tell? Encourage her to build a support system she trusts and help her gather the troops. This may sound very easy, but it’s difficult to do when you’re feeling vulnerable. 

What is the most difficult part of this right now? Don’t pretend you fully know what’s going on. Even if you somewhat do, your friend is experiencing many mixed emotions as her views, priorities, and plans are being thrown into the air. Let her label her challenges on her own and state them in her own time. 

What new habits do you think would be helpful for you right now? Between morning sickness and feeling overwhelmed, staying in bed all day is very tempting, and while it may be necessary, too much of it can be more damaging than helpful. Encourage your friend to go on walks to think, relax, and pump some endorphins through her body. Encourage her to eat healthy. If stress is high, self-neglect may be around the corner. Bring her nourishing meals or you can even try cooking alongside her, as she may be more motivated if it’s done with company. Encourage her to take care of herself and do all the small things that ultimately will help her stay sane through the stress. 

Those first doctors appointments can be difficult as they make the pregnancy feel very real. 

What should we focus on? There is probably plenty to worry about, but trying to figure it all out at once is not the most helpful thing. Help her determine what her top priorities are at the moment. 

  1. Medical needs: Those first appointments can be difficult as they make the pregnancy feel very real. Everything from verbally expressing being pregnant to seeing the baby for the first time via ultrasound is an overwhelming experience, even for people who intended to get pregnant. Being there for your friend is crucial. Celebrate it even if she is still feeling scared and unsure. You can even make an outing of it – grab food after the ultrasound and talk about the experience, or bring her a thoughtful gift. 

  2. Living arrangements: There is a need to make physical space for her newest arrival. This can be a very exciting part of the pregnancy, but for some, it also involves grief, as a major lifestyle change is happening and the old self is left behind. Bring a positive and uplifting energy to this so it’s easier to embrace the newness. Volunteer to paint her nursery or help out with decluttering her space to add room for a crib, go shopping with her for decor, or surprise her with a cute baby mobile you know she'll love.

  3. Shifting relationships: Often, these types of situations can make or break relationships. Your friend is probably going to grow closer to some people and farther from others. That is hard on anyone, so being there for her as she makes these decisions and takes them into action is very important. Encourage her to join a mommy page on social media to make connections with women in similar seasons of life, or find support groups in person that she can go to weekly.

Keep healthy boundaries in mind throughout this period. Needless to say, do not comment on the things you talk about with your friend with other people. Strict confidentiality is very important in these situations. Your friend may say things that she doesn’t truly mean, but it’s all part of the emotional rollercoaster she’s on, so be charitable about that. 

Research. Research. Research 

Finding out you’re unexpectedly pregnant means that your plans will inevitably change. This can be overwhelming and scary for some as there is also a strict time-frame and huge responsibilities around these changes. If your friend is unmotivated to do research, do a little bit of digging to help her find the resources she needs. You could even call your local pregnancy care center where they can give you clear expectations and a timeline to follow. If she is in school, this may be the time to seek out new scholarships available to her. If she will need daycare, look into her options for public funding, or consider finding a childcare co-op. There are many options in all of these, but they do require research. 

Don’t make decisions on behalf of your friend. It’s still her life and her decisions to make.

Do your best to provide her with helpful information, but don’t make decisions on behalf of your friend. It’s still her life and her decisions to make, even if they don't align with what you would choose for your child. You are free to agree or disagree and express it respectfully, but remind yourself that it’s ultimately her decision. 

Bring Joy to the Situation 

As your friend starts making all these decisions and embracing the new life ahead of her, add the element of celebration to it. She has to do the heavy lifting, but you can do the joy lifting. Go at her pace – if she’s not ready to throw a giant baby shower and announce the pregnancy on social media, then don’t do it for her. If she decided to tell only three friends and keep it mum, then you’re throwing a three-person low-key baby shower. If she’s single and struggling in her singleness, extra girl time can help. If she’s in a relationship, her relationship is most likely going through changes as naturally happens when a pregnancy occurs. Be supportive and listen, but again, do not give unsolicited advice and don’t criticize her choices. Make sure your friend still feels comfortable coming to you for love and support – that is what she needs the most. 

Closing Thoughts

There is no cookie cutter response to this sort of situation, but this guide covers the basics you need to know in order to help a friend facing an unplanned pregnancy. At its core, all you need is an endless supply of empathy and every available ounce of patience. It is also helpful to remind your friend (and yourself) that time can solve many of the conundrums. As the emotional dust settles and she grows in her relationship with her new baby, things will get easier and clearer. It may be a crazy journey, but surely you can make it one to cherish and be proud of. 

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