If you do become pregnant, there are several options open to you.  While an unintended pregnancy can be a scary and overwhelming experience, an understanding of the available options can help you make an informed decision about whether or not you wish to continue your pregnancy.  This is an extremely personal decision, and each woman must be free to decide what is best for her particular situation.  There are several medical centers and support services that can help during this time, and more information can be found on the Resource page.

Note:  Reproductive decisions should be made free from outside pressure.  Please be aware that some “pregnancy crisis centers” do not provide accurate information about abortion and purposely steer women towards parenthood or adoption.  The Women’s Center strives to provide accurate information about all of your options and to provide a list of supportive, legitimate resources.

Abortion

Abortion is a legal medical procedure that safely terminates pregnancy.   There are two types of abortions available, depending on how far the pregnancy has progressed.

Medical Abortion   This procedure can usually be performed in early pregnancy (up to nine weeks).  To perform a medical abortion, the abortion pill, mifepristone (also known as RU-486), is taken along with another medication, misoprostol.  Mifepristone breaks down the lining of the uterus, and misoprostol causes the uterus to contract and empty.  The woman will experience bleeding and cramping, and the process can take anywhere from a few hours to a few days.  A follow-up visit is needed to ensure the abortion is complete and the woman is healthy.

In-Clinic Procedure   This type of procedure can vary based upon the gestational age.  Aspiration abortioncan be performed up to 16 weeks, and is the most common abortion procedure.  To perform an aspiration abortion, anesthesia is administered, the cervix is dilated, a tube is inserted into the uterus, and a suction device empties the uterus.  Sometimes, an instrument called a curette is used to remove any remaining tissue.  This procedure is commonly called a D&C, for dilation and curettage.  A D&E, or dilation and evacuation, is a similar procedure that uses aspiration, curettage, and surgical instruments such as forceps.  A D&E is performed after 16 weeks and generally up to 24 weeks, although abortions may be performed later in a pregnancy in cases of medical necessity.

Abortion laws vary from state to state, but like many states, West Virginia law requires that women seeking abortion undergo a 24-hour waiting period and that minors obtain parental consent or a consent waiver.

(Information taken from plannedparenthood.com)

Adoption

Adoption is a process by which birth parents can place an infant with an unrelated set of parents that will assume full legal responsibility for the child and raise her/him as their own.  Adoption can be a scary choice for pregnant women because of the finality of relinquishing all legal and custodial rights to the adoptive parents, but actually there are several different types of adoption, some of which allow for a certain amount of contact with the adoptive family.  Anyone considering adoption should research their options to find the best arrangement for them and their child.

Types of Adoption:

Closed Adoption  An adoption in which the identities of both the biological and adoptive parents are kept confidential, and all transactions are handled through an attorney or adoption agency.  Typically in this case, the biological parents do not choose the adoptive parents and receive only limited information about them.  After the adoption is completed, the biological parents have no contact with the child or the adoptive family.

Semi-Open Adoption  An adoption in which certain amounts of information are exchanged between the biological and adoptive parents, and the parties may even meet each other before the adoption takes place.  After the adoption is completed, any correspondence between the parties is handled by a mediator such as the attorney or adoption agency, and anonymity is observed with regard to last names and addresses.  If agreed upon ahead of time, the biological parents may receive letters, emails, photographs, and updates about the child’s progress.

Open Adoption  An adoption in which the biological parents have the opportunity to screen and choose the adoptive parents for their child.  The parties generally meet and exchange information, and often contact is continued after the adoption is completed.  Biological parents may receive letters and photographs, and may even write to the child themselves.  In some cases, visits are arranged.  This allows the biological parents to be a part of the child’s life even though the adoptive parents retain legal and custodial responsibility.

Adoption Process:

If you decide that adoption is the right choice for you, the first step in the process is to contact an adoption agency or an attorney that handles adoptions.  An agency or attorney can explain your options, help you to make decisions regarding your adoption plan, and mediate between you and the adoptive parents.

The most important part of the adoption process is the development of your adoption plan.  The adoption plan outlines your wants and needs during pregnancy, your involvement in the adoption process, and the amount of contact you want to have with the child after the adoption is completed.  Do you want to choose the adoptive parents?  Do you want to meet them?  Should they be present at birth?  Do you want to receive updates about your child’s progress as they grow up?  Do you hope to maintain contact with the adoptive family in the future?  Ironing out these details in the adoption plan can ease stress and help you to feel confident that your wishes for both you and the child are being met.

When it is time for you to give birth, your attorney or agency will make sure that your adoption plan is followed with regard to whether or not the adoptive parents are present and whether or not you wish to see the baby after it is born.  After the birth, you will sign the papers finalizing the adoption and transfer legal rights and responsibility to the adoptive parents.  Most likely, the baby will leave the hospital with the adoptive parents.  This can be a very difficult time for the biological parents, so it is important to have a strong support system in place.

(Information taken from adoption.com)

Pregnancy

If you decide you want to carry a pregnancy to term, it is extremely important to get proper prenatal care to ensure your health and the health of the baby.  In addition to medical care, prenatal care includes education on pregnancy and childbirth, plus counseling and support.  Frequent visits to your healthcare provider allow you to follow the progress of your baby’s development.  Visits also give you the opportunity to ask questions.  Also, most healthcare providers welcome your partner and other family members at each visit.

When choosing a maternity care provider, it is important to identify your wants and needs so that you can find the best match for your particular situation.  Some important factors to consider when making this decision are the risk level of your pregnancy, where you want to give birth, and whether you prefer natural or medical styles of pregnancy and birthing strategies.  Different types of maternity care providers include:

Obstetrician-Gynecologist (OB/GYN)  A medical doctor who is specially trained to provide medical and surgical care to women; OB/GYNs spend four years after medical school in a residency studying pregnancy, reproduction, and female medical and surgical problems.

Perinatologist   Also called maternal-fetal medicine specialists, a perinatologist is an obstetrician who specializes in the care of women who may face special problems during pregnancy.  These include young women under age 18 and women over 35; women with certain medical conditions, such as diabetes, hypertension, and sexually transmitted infections; women with inherited (genetic) disorders; and women who have had problems with previous pregnancies.

Certified Nurse Midwives (CNMs)  Specially trained, licensed professionals experienced in providing obstetric and newborn care, CNMs provide comprehensive, family-centered maternity care. Midwives are registered nurses who have earned their master’s degree in nursing, with a strong emphasis on clinical training in midwifery. Midwives work with obstetricians who are always available to assist if complications occur during pregnancy, labor, or delivery.

Family Practitioner (FP)   A medical doctor who specializes in the health care of all family members. FPs are prepared to provide normal OB/GYN care, but will refer high-risk pregnancies and other problems to an OB/GYN. All family practitioners are trained to perform Cesarean births in an emergency and also to assist other specialists in doing the procedure.

Doula   A person who specializes in helping families through childbearing. Doulas do not provide any clinical care, so they do not replace your obstetric health care provider.   A doula can help you find the appropriate childbirth class, learn birthing techniques, write a birth plan, and more.  Most doulas will provide early labor support at home, and then accompany you to the hospital or birthing center.  Note: Most insurance providers will not cover the costs of a doula.

In addition to choosing the right maternity provider, it is important to consider where you want to deliver.  Although most births today take place in hospitals, there are several different birthing options available in most areas.  Every expectant mother should research her local options, ask questions of each facility, and take a tour if possible.  Of course, the mother’s health and the pregnancy’s risk level may preclude some options.

 Hospitals  Hospitals are a popular birthing option because they provide easy access to emergency care should complications occur during delivery.  Although most people have visited and/or been a patient at a hospital at some point, many may not realize that hospitals differ widely in their procedures and services related to delivery care.  For example, some hospitals offer private recovery rooms while others do not.  Some have anesthesiologists onsite at all times, others only during certain hours.  Some maternity care providers can assist in delivery at one hospital but not another.  Most importantly, some hospitals have Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICUs) while others do not.  In choosing a hospital, you should consider your preferances and the safety/health needs of you and your baby.  Taking a tour is a good way to decide whether a hospital is the right one for you.

Birthing Centers: Although most births take place in hospitals, more women are choosing to have their babies in other locations, such as a birthing center.  For women with uncomplicated pregnancies, a birthing center may provide a more natural, woman-centered environment for giving birth.Birthing centers, usually located near a hospital, allow women with uncomplicated pregnancies to deliver there. Most centers are run by certified nurse midwives or doctors. Be sure to research the staff’s credentials when selecting a birthing center. Although rare, problems during labor and delivery can arise, so you’ll want the best opportunity to get the best care. Be sure to ask what the procedure is for complications and emergencies.

Home Births: Home deliveries, although common in most of the world, are relatively rare in the U.S. Most doctors will not agree to do a home delivery because of the risk of complications occuring far from emergency care facilities.  For low-risk, full-term pregnancies, a home birth may be an option.  If you are considering a home birth, consult with your maternity care provider about the risks and benefits.

(Information taken from WebMD)

Support Services

There are many support services available in our area for pregnant women and mothers.  The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Services can help low-income women to obtain medical insurance, nutritional support, affordable childcare, and paternal child support.  While we provide a list of local service-providers on our resource page, our list is by no means exhaustive.  Your case worker can give you more information about maternal care providers, hospitals, daycares, etc.  Programs such as Medicaid, LINK, and WIC allow a great deal of freedom for the mother to choose the providers that are best for her and her child.