I didn’t know I was pregnant: What to do

The typical signs of pregnancy don’t always affect women the same way so it’s definitely a possibility. If you just found out you’re 5 months pregnant, you’ve probably got a lot of questions and concerns. To help, we’ve put together a guide to help you through it.

A young woman didn't know she was pregnant. This is a wide-angle image.

Surprise pregnancies

Surprise pregnancies happen more often than you might think. Research published in the British Medical Journal suggests that at least 1 in 475 people don’t find out they’re pregnant until roughly 20 weeks, or around 5 months pregnant – for context, that’s basically halfway through the pregnancy.

How is it possible that I didn’t know I was pregnant?

Pregnancy can be overlooked for a number of reasons. Your periods may be absent or irregular, or you may continue to bleed as normal throughout the pregnancy. Alternatively, you might not have noticed any weight gain, or you may not have gained much weight in proportion to your overall size.

Basically, the typical signs of pregnancy, such as morning sickness, just aren’t there. Or, if you do have any symptoms, they can be passed off as side-effects of birth control.

You can even have a cryptic pregnancy where you give birth to a full term baby without even knowing you were pregnant for nine months. Sounds too wild to be true? Check out MTV’s ‘I didn’t know I was pregnant’ to see some real-life stories.

That’s all well and good, but now that you know you’re pregnant you don’t really care how you got there. You’re just kinda freaking out. While it’s true that you’ll need to make some difficult decisions, you shouldn’t panic. There’s plenty of help available.

Unexpected pregnancies bring up a range of emotions

“I cried for a whole day when I found out,” says Eleanor Trussler, who didn’t know she was pregnant until 22 weeks since she had the contraceptive coil fitted. Your emotions may range anywhere from disbelief to anger, fear, panic, resentment or excitement. There really is no ‘right’ way to react to this news. So however you process it is all totally normal.

“It definitely doesn’t make you a bad mother if you have conflicted feelings. It just makes you human.” says Lara Honos-Webb, a psychologist who specialises in pregnancy and birth. “You may wanna write your feelings down or voicenote them to help figure out what you’re thinking.” Don’t be afraid to voice negative emotions either – it’s important to let everything out so that you can gradually work through it.

Tell a friend about your pregnancy

One thing we’re sure of is that you’ll need a strong support network of friends, family and professionals around you during this time. You might even want to speak to someone other than your partner (if you have one) at first. That way you can be honest about your emotions without needing to worry about freaking them out in the process.

Tell the father of the baby

The father’ll probably be as shocked and scared as you were when you found out about the pregnancy. So don’t take their initial reaction to heart or assume that it signals a lack of support. “The mother will probably have to act as an ’emotion coach,’ once they share the news.” says Honos-Webb. Allow your partner to talk through their emotions and give them time to discover how they really feel once the initial shock has faded.

Tell a doctor

Your GP (doctor) should be your next port of call. They can arrange an appointment with a midwife who’ll manage your care through the rest of your pregnancy. And if you need help finding a doctor, then read this. 

This doesn’t have to be the only way forward though. There are still other options left for you to explore. It may even be possible to arrange a late termination of the pregnancy if that’s something you’d wanna consider.

If you’ve been drinking, smoking or taking drugs because you didn’t know you were pregnant

Don’t be afraid to tell the doctor or midwife if you’ve been drinking, smoking or doing drugs before you knew you were pregnant. They’re not there to judge. Plus, you’re not at fault in the slightest – you didn’t have all the information at hand when you were doing it. Regardless, you need to tell them to ensure that you and your baby have the best care possible.

What pregnancy scans can you have?

It is unlikely you’ll be able to have any diagnostic scans to determine abnormalities such as Down’s Syndrome or spina bifida, as these all usually take place between 11-14 weeks. On the other hand, a foetal anomaly scan is carried out between 18-22 weeks. So you may be able to have this if you discover the pregnancy in time.

Making birth plans

Although the pregnancy may not have been planned, the birth can be. Do some research and have some discussions with your midwife to figure out the kind of birth you hope to have. Remember, the more research you can do at this stage, the better prepared you’ll be for labour. Our article I’m pregnant, now what? might also help.

Money

You may choose to keep your baby or give them up for adoption. If you’re considering the latter, this article may help.

Otherwise, if you’re planning on raising the child yourself, you’re gonna need to make some changes. As soon as you discover you’re pregnant, start cutting down on non-essential purchases such as expensive coffees or takeaway food. Instead, put that money aside for the baby.

You may also be eligible for financial aid. To learn more, find out about money you may be entitled to, such as a Sure Start Maternity Grant or Statutory Maternity Pay after your baby is born.

After your baby is born

Yes, the situation is complicated and completely unexpected. But, we promise, you’ve got this. “No matter how awful you feel when you find out you’re pregnant, you’re gonna end up loving that child.” says Eleanor, who had a full term pregnancy and gave birth to a healthy baby boy. “Now that he’s here I can’t imagine not having him. Even though it can be ridiculously difficult at times, I don’t think you ever really regret having a child.”

Next Steps

  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.
  • Need help but confused where to go locally? Download our StepFinder iPhone app to find local support services quickly.

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pregnant

By Anne-Marie Payne

Updated on 16-Jun-2022