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Having a baby

Each year in England around 30,000 young women under the age of twenty will give birth, so if you're pregnant and you decide to continue the pregnancy you're not alone. 

There is loads of information and support that you'll need to make sure you have a safe and healthy pregnancy and birth.

Your first step will be to talk to your GP or a sexual health clinic. They will give you advice and information on how to stay healthy while you are pregnant. If you're under the age of 25, our Brook services are here to help you.

You will get lots of information about being pregnant and being a parent from other organisations, but there are one or two things that we can tell you about here to start you off.

Staying healthy

Your doctor can talk to you about how to have a healthy pregnancy, including how to eat and drink healthily. Doctors tend to advise that smoking and drinking alcohol should be avoided during pregnancy. The NHS runs a Pregnancy Smoking Helpline on 0800 123 1044 which offers free help, support and advice on stopping smoking when you're pregnant, including details of local support services.

If you’re under 18 and/or receive certain benefits you can get ‘Healthy Start’ vouchers which can be used towards healthy foods and vitamins.

Folic acid is a vitamin which is especially important to take in the early weeks of pregnancy. It can help to prevent some serious birth defects. The NHS recommends taking 400 milligrams of folic acid daily before pregnancy and during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy if possible.

Explore the section on having a healthy pregnancy on the Tommy's website.

Pre-natal care

'Pre-natal' means 'before birth'. You might also hear people say 'ante-natal' - it means the same thing.

Ante-natal classes are run at your local hospital, birth centre or community centre and they give you a chance to meet and share information with other parents-to-be. They are your opportunity to ask any questions you have about your pregnancy or the birth. 

A midwife is a specially trained nurse who will help you throughout your pregnancy and birth. You will meet your midwife early on in your pregnancy and will have regular appointments with them to check how you are getting on. Many areas have midwives who are specially trained to work with young parents.

Pregnancy scans

Hospitals tend to offer at least two ultrasound scans during pregnancy. The first is usually when you're around 12 weeks pregnant and is sometimes called the dating scan, because it estimates when your baby is due.

The second scan usually takes place between 18 weeks and 21 weeks. This scan checks to see if there are any problems with the developing foetus. Your doctor will be able to give you more information.

You can also contact ARC antenatal results and choices, a charity that helps parents and healthcare professionals through antenatal screening and its consequences

Miscarriage

Miscarriage is when someone loses a pregnancy. It’s not the same as having an abortion, because it happens naturally, rather than by choice.

Miscarriages are quite common. It is thought that about one in five pregnancies end in miscarriage. But, many of these happen very early and some people may not even realise that they have been pregnant. The majority of those who have a miscarriage go on to have successful full-term pregnancies.

In terms of preventing a miscarriage, there is very little that you can do, although it is important to eat sensibly and try to stop smoking, drinking alcohol and using drugs. If you have already had more than one pregnancy that has ended in miscarriage, you should talk to your doctor.

Being pregnant at school

If you are still at school when you get pregnant, you are entitled to an education and to stay on at school. The Equality Act is a law which says that places like schools cannot treat someone differently just because they are pregnant.

If someone is being treated unfairly by a school when they're pregnant, they can get advice about how to challenge the school by contacting:

Being pregnant at work

There are laws to protect you if you are working when you get pregnant. For example, you can request flexible hours when you come back to work.

New mothers are entitled to up to a year of maternity leave, new fathers are also allowed to take paternity leave. There is more information about the benefits you are entitled to here.

Being a young parent

Once the baby is born, you may find it helpful to think about the following things:

  • Is there anyone you know who will help out or babysit on a regular basis? How do they feel about doing this?
  • What sort of things would/could your parents or other adults you know do to help?
  • If you have a partner, are they feeling 100% ready to become a mum or dad? What help might they need?
  • It can also be helpful to think about things like finance and housing.

Gingerbread is an organisation which provides information on benefits, money, housing and childcare to single parents or young women who are pregnant and living with a parent. You can call their helpline on 0808 802 0925.

Family Lives provides a free helpline, open 24 hours a day on 0808 800 2222. It also provides support through online chat, email and discussion forums.

Partners' rights

A woman's partner doesn't have a right to decide if she continues her pregnancy or not. That is her decision.

When a baby is born however, the man that the woman conceived with has rights and responsibilities, even if he is not in a relationship with the mother. He has a duty to provide financially for the child, either through agreement with the mother, or through the Child Support Agency. Child support needs to be paid until the child leaves school or college.

You can read more about birth fathers' rights on TheSite.org.

Adoption

Adoption is a way of giving a baby new parents, for them to bring them up as their own, so you would continue with the pregnancy and give birth, but you wouldn’t look after the baby, and you won’t have responsibility or legal rights once it’s adopted.

Usually the baby will go to foster carers for a short time while arrangements are made for them to go the adoptive parents. The adoptive parents will then look after the baby, and apply for an adoption order; once they have this they will be the baby’s legal parent/s.

Deciding to put a baby up for adoption can be a difficult decision, so if you think this might be an option for you, you might find it helpful to talk things through with someone who can give you further information and support, such as:

  • a doctor or nurse at your GP surgery
  • a social worker at your local hospital (ask at the maternity unit)
  • an adoption social worker at your local social services department
  • a counsellor at your nearest Brook service
  • or contact the British Association of Adoption and Fostering www.baaf.org.uk

Visit our adoption page for more information and advice.

LGBT parenting resources

A lot of information about pregnancy and parenting can assume that the person getting pregnant is in a heterosexual relationship, and/or is cisgender. Actually, people of different sexual identities and gender identities can and do get pregnant, or parent in other ways.

Stonewall has a lot of information on parenting for those who identify as gay, lesbian and bisexual.

You don’t have to be heterosexual, or even in a couple to adopt a child in the UK. The British Association for Adoption and Fostering (BAAF) can provide more information.