What To Do If Your Daughter Is Pregnant
“I’m pregnant.” Two words you never expected to hear from your teenage daughter. Words that have consequences which will change your relationship with her forever. Teen pregnancies have been declining in the recent past to record lows (1). But the latest Office of Population Affairs records 158,043 births to teens ages 15-19 years old (2). This means that if your daughter has shared with you that she is pregnant, you are not alone. Wondering What To Do If Your Daughter Is Pregnant? Keep reading.
What to Actually Do if Your Daughter is Pregnant
Have you processed the initial revelation of your daughter’s pregnancy? We’ll cover the stages of grief you may go through before you come to accept the truth of the situation. You’ll equip yourself with resources to educate everyone involved. You’ll locate the services necessary to ensure a healthy mother, baby, and birth. We have gathered some steps and suggestions for you and your daughter. Here are three things to do today: Love, Listen and Learn.
Love both your daughter and the developing baby which she carries. In the Bible, the apostle Peter instructs us, “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8 NIV) Despite what other feelings you experience, let love be at the forefront. It helps you and her smooth the bumps in the road of this challenging expedition.
Listen to everyone involved. Communication and support are key to a successful pregnancy. Good communication integrates all participating parties. Your daughter, the father, and his family will all have something to say. Have an open ear and open heart to hear what they wish to share.
Read more in Part Two: How To Talk To The Father Of The Baby
Learn what a local PRC has available for you and your daughter. Their services will be a blessing as you and your daughter walk this road together. (More on that later.)
The news that your daughter is pregnant as a teen is difficult. A way to temper that knowledge is with the words of the Psalmist: “Children are a heritage from the Lord.” (Psalm 127:3 NIV)
Grief that Your Daughter is Pregnant
When you hear that your daughter is pregnant, there will be a variety of emotions that you process. Anger. Disappointment. Confusion. These are all part of a larger feeling of grief. The pregnancy of your teenage daughter may cause a sense of loss. For the daughter, it is grief for the loss of possible future plans. How will she complete high school? Is college still available as an option? She will have concerns about the perception her peers have of her. It is natural to worry that she will lose some of those friends because of her pregnancy. Becoming a mother can raise questions about future romantic relationships. Will being a young single mother affect her future dating prospects?
As her mother, you will be contemplating the loss of your daughter's opportunities too. From experience, you recognize the challenges of establishing yourself in the world. This extra challenge will make the transition into successful adulthood more difficult. You may have concerns about what other moms think of you. It is possible they see your daughter's situation as a reflection on your parenting, and this fear will make social interactions difficult.
Finally, there is the grief of her father. There has always been a special relationship between father and daughter. In most men’s eyes, their daughter will always be “daddy’s little girl.” Your daughter’s pregnancy is proof that your daughter has lost her girlish innocence. She is transitioning to womanhood sooner than expected. Sometimes this expedited transition will interrupt the father-daughter relationship.
Stages Of Grief
The American Psychological Association provides a framework of coping strategies when we grieve. These five strategies are common but not universal. They are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally acceptance (3). You may experience all or some of these stages. Preparing for them will help you help your daughter navigate the upcoming pregnancy.
The shock can result in shaming or rejecting your daughter. In a moment of impulsive denial, you may reject not only the truth of the pregnancy but also your daughter. Denial of the pregnancy cannot lead to denial of the one who is pregnant. Separating the emotion of the news from the source of the news is important.
Anger, as a result of the denial, can lead to expelling your daughter from your home or life during her time of need. You may in an emotional moment of heated exchange ask her to leave. Expulsion from your home removes the physical reminder of the situation. It will not relieve the stress of the situation. Anger is an emotional hand grenade. In the intimacy of family, the emotional shrapnel will affect everyone.
Some parents bargain with their daughter. They offer incentives to end the pregnancy. Bargaining can lead to coercion and pressure towards terrible and harmful outcomes. Parents offer a car, a trip, or some other physical trinket to persuade the teen. If the “carrot” approach does not work, then they apply the “stick” of ultimatums. “Abort or else” is pressure to end the pregnancy or lose position within the home or family. This pressure is damaging in ways that take a lifetime to realize. It also is illegal to coerce someone into an abortion (4).
Sadness and depression lead to damaged or distant relationships. It prevents communication and listening. Loneliness can take hold of you or your daughter’s heart and mind. Once you or your daughter are feeling alone it is easy to get lost in one’s own thoughts. For your daughter, this is dangerous. She may struggle to navigate the emotions pregnancy will bring. It could result in tragic conclusions for either her or her baby. For you as a parent, loneliness lends itself to self-doubt and regret. Regret can cause you to withdraw from your daughter and others in the family. Also leading to withdrawal from your connected community at large. The result is isolation and bitterness.
Mature acceptance of reality is key to moving forward. You will need to assist your daughter towards a healthy conclusion to her pregnancy - the birth of her child. To do so, both you as a parent and your daughter will need to progress through these stages of grief. You will both need a productive relationship throughout her pregnancy and beyond.
Acceptance that Your Daughter is Pregnant - A Strategic Approach
The news of a daughter’s pregnancy will initiate a series of emotions and corresponding actions. A thoughtful, planned response will help to mitigate those emotions. It will give guidance to everyone on how to navigate the details of your daughter’s pregnancy. Details such as who, what, when, where, and why can serve as guideposts for you in this process.
The first question will often be “Who is the father?” In most situations there is a boyfriend involved, but not always. You must prepare yourself for whatever the truth of the situation may be. Is the father or his family aware of the pregnancy? Knowing details about the father will help towards a healthy pregnancy and birth.
If the father knows and if his family knows, what were their reactions to the news? Knowing the reaction to this news helps you plan for possible rough times. Was the news met with negative reactions? Are you alone in guiding this young couple through the upcoming months and beyond? What is the attitude of the father and his family? Knowing their attitude, as well as your own, will go a long way to helping your daughter have a healthy experience.
Determining the "when" of conception is vital information. It is certain to help your daughter make informed healthcare decisions. Both for her healthcare and the development of her baby. Many women journal their cycle dates, but that is not enough. An ultrasound can establish the age of the pregnancy - more on that in the next section.
Are you overwhelmed thinking about unplanned pregnancy expenses? Medical expenses often feel like a barrier to getting the help your daughter needs. Most communities have Pregnancy Resource Centers which will help you and your daughter. Pregnancy Centers like Help 4 Her bridge the gap with cost-free services.
A PRC is an excellent first stop on this exciting journey.
There are many “whys” when you learn that your daughter is pregnant. “Why her?” “Why me?” “Why now?” Some of these reasons may not be answered. Regardless, the simple fact is that God is the author of life. Each life, regardless of origin, is precious to him and has a purpose (Psalm 139:13-16). It is God’s place to determine when a new life begins. He is not surprised by the unexpected reality of your daughter’s pregnancy.
One emotion we have not mentioned so far can be the most important: joy. The joy of being a grandparent should be considered in this process and will help refocus negative thoughts to positive ones. You have probably seen a grandparent out in public with one of those shirts that read, “If I had known grandkids were so much fun, I would have had them first.” It appears a long way away today, but there will be a day when you, your daughter, and your grandchild will enjoy one another and experience joy. You probably didn't expect to be a grandparent so soon, but grandparents everywhere say it’s fun.
- About Teen Pregnancy, https://www.cdc.gov/teenpregnancy/about/index.htm
- Trends in Teen Pregnancy and Childbearing; https://opa.hhs.gov/adolescent-health/reproductive-health-and-teen-pregnancy/trends-teen-pregnancy-and-childbearing
- APA Dictionary of Psychology, Stages Of Grief, https://dictionary.apa.org/stages-of-grief
- The Justice Foundation. (n.d.). Center Against Forced Abortions (CAFA). The Justice Foundation. Retrieved October 25, 2022, from https://thejusticefoundation.org/cafa/
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