A pregnancy scare can be beyond stressful. Whether your period is super late or you’re not sure if your emergency contraception is working, waiting to find out if you’re pregnant or not can be so, so scary. But the most important thing is that while there are various resources out there to help you, you’re in control of your body and any decision concerning it is yours to make.
A 2011 survey by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, now called Power to Decide, reported that 54 percent of young women reported that they’ve had a pregnancy scare. And according to 2015 study published on the U.S. National Library of Medicine, more than 40 percent of women who reported a pregnancy scare went on to experience an unintended pregnancy.
Seventeen partnered with SexSmarts and the Kaiser Family Foundation to provide information and resources on a range of sex health issues. Whether you’re just worried about a late period or coping with an unintended pregnancy, keep reading to learn everything you need to know about dealing with a pregnancy scare.
What are the symptoms of pregnancy?
Unfortunately, there’s no immediate foolproof signal your body will send if you’re pregnant. Still, there are certain early pregnancy symptoms most people experience, such as a missed period, frequent urination, bloating, nausea, sore or enlarged breasts, and fatigue.
Of course, many of these symptoms can be indicative of other conditions and stresses on your body, so if you wake up feeling extra-tired one Monday morning, don’t freak out — it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re pregnant. Anxiety and stress alone (such as the anxiety and stress of worrying about being pregnant!) can give you some pretty fierce headaches. But still, if you are experiencing some of these symptoms, particularly the missed period. you should definitely get a pregnancy test to be sure.
How do pregnancy tests work?
If you are pregnant, your body starts producing a hormone called human chorionic gonadotrophin (HCG), which can be detected in urine and in blood as quickly as seven days after fertilization. Pregnancy tests work by checking for this hormone, and over 90 percent of the time, they can detect HCG even before you miss a period.
Where can I get a pregnancy test?
You can buy home test kits in most drugstores and supermarkets. Just be sure to follow the manufacturer’s directions very carefully to get accurate results. If you’d prefer to have the test administered by a professional health care provider or you’d like to get the results of your home test confirmed, you can see your family doctor
What if the results are positive?
Getting back a positive result on a pregnancy test can be a pretty emotional moment, so don’t be surprised if it takes you a few hours or days — or even weeks — to figure out how you really feel about it. One of the best ways to deal with your possible anxiety and confusion is to talk about how you’re feeling with someone you trust, someone who will support you and listen to your concerns with a generous and open mind.
While it’s a great idea to turn to your closest friends, it’s also really important to confide in an adult, too, ideally one of your parents. But if that’s not possible, try another relative, friend’s parent, or counselor. A supportive adult will be able to help you understand the medical choices you have in front of you, as well as the legal choices you’ll have to make. To ensure that you feel safe and protected, you might ask the person (or people) you talk to keep your news confidential.
If you just want an additional well-informed person to talk to, consider consulting with a trained counselor at a family planning clinic. She or he will be able to talk to you in confidence about your feelings, your options, and the decisions you need to make. You can get referred to a family planning clinic by calling the Planned Parenthood hotline.
How do I prevent pregnancy scares in the future?
Here’s the non-negotiable fact: the only sure-fire way to guarantee that you don’t get pregnant is to abstain from having sexual intercourse. But if you are sexually active, using a reliable method of birth control — or even better, combining a few reliable methods — is the best way to avoid an unplanned pregnancy.
Condoms are a great source of protection: they’re inexpensive, easy to find, they have high rates of success, and they have the bonus effect of guarding against sexually transmitted diseases, which isn’t true of any other form of birth control. If you learn how to use condoms and get in the habit of carrying them with you just in case, you’ll always have a protection plan for any scenario. Birth control pills are another highly dependable method of protection against pregnancy, as long as you’re consistent about taking them in a regular manner once a day.
Should I take the morning after pill?
If a condom breaks or you forgot to take your pill a few times this month, there is something you can do. But you need to act quickly. If you act within 72 hours, emergency contraceptives can help to reduce the risk of pregnancy by up to 88 percent.
There are three types available today — Plan B, Ella, and a copper IUD. Plan B is available over the counter and Ella requires a prescription. A copper IUD can also act as an emergency contraceptive and doubles as a long-acting form of birth control.
Emergency contraception works by inhibiting or delaying ovulation, preventing fertilization, or preventing implantation of a fertilized egg. Unlike RU-486 (a medical abortion drug), emergency contraception does not interrupt or terminate an established pregnancy; it prevents pregnancy from occurring. That means if you are already pregnant, it won’t work.
Emergency contraception can cause nausea for a day or so, but you can ask your provider to prescribe an anti-nausea medication. It’s also not foolproof — it only reduces your chance of pregnancy by 75 to 89 percent. Emergency contraception is for emergencies. In other words, it is not a reliable long-term birth control method and it does not protect against STDs, before or after its use. It also does not protect against future acts of intercourse, so it is important that you use another form of birth control if you have sex again.
How much is emergency contraception?
Generally, emergency contraception costs anywhere from $25 and $80 (the price includes examination, pregnancy test, and pills). Costs can be less — or even nonexistent — at family planning clinics and health centers. Find out everything you need to know about emergency contraception here.