Pregnancy

Depending on your individual needs, there are a range of options that help to support young people that are pregnant. This includes raising a child, having an abortion or putting up your child for adoption. At all times, your health care comes first and should be your priority in all circumstances.

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What can I do if I’m pregnant?

Pregnancy can be confusing and scary, particularly for a young person.  If you’re pregnant, it is a good idea to talk to tell someone. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to someone you know such your parents, or a friend you trust, you can always talk to a school counselor.  There are also a number of other organisations you can call. The following are specialist organisations that you can call:

Do I need my parents’ permission to go to the doctor? Will the doctors tell my parents that I am pregnant?

If you are pregnant, it’s really important you receive health care and support throughout your pregnancy.  You should talk to a healthcare professional, who will be able to explain all the available options and their consequences. In Australia, free medical treatment is provided to all citizens and permanent residents through the Medicare system. For more information see the Medicare page.

If you are under 18 years of age, the doctor will need to determine whether you are able to consent (agree) to medical treatment (including seeing a General Practitioner) based on your age, maturity, the seriousness of the treatment you are wanting or need and whether you fully understand what is involved. If the doctor thinks that you are able to consent, then the doctor will be able to see you without telling your parents.  

This means whatever treatment the doctor prescribes you and whatever you discuss with them, is private and the doctor must not tell anyone else this information, including your parents. However, if the doctor thinks that you are not able to consent because you do not understand what is involved in the medical treatment; the doctor might want your parents to be involved. For more information see the Medical page.

Do I have to tell my parents that I am pregnant?

There is no law that requires you to tell your parents about any medical treatment you have received or that you are pregnant.  You may think your parents will disapprove or be upset when they find out you are pregnant. If you need some help telling your parents you are pregnant you can call the Kids Help Line on 1800 55 1800, which offers a free counselling service or check out their website.

What are my options after I’ve found out I’m pregnant?

Once you have found out that you are pregnant you have a number of options. If you decide that you do not want to raise the child, you may be able to have an abortion or give the baby up for adoption. You may also decide you want to raise the child yourself.  

Can I get an abortion?

You can get an abortion in the ACT so long as:

  • A medical doctor performs the procedure;
  • The procedure is performed at an approved medical facility; and
  • The doctor chooses to carry out the abortion, as they are not obliged to.

If you want to get an abortion and you are under 18 years old, the same laws about seeing a doctor without your parents’ permission apply. The doctor must think you are mature enough to be able to understand the procedure and what is involved before they will perform the procedure on you. For more information see the Medical page.

You also need to consent to the procedure. Your consent needs to be ‘informed’. This means:

  • Your doctor discusses the options with you and answers any questions you have or explains anything you don’t understand. This includes the doctor explaining the possible risks associated with the procedure.
  • It is entirely your decision.
  • Your doctor makes a formal record of the agreed decision.

If the doctor does not obtain proper consent, there can be legal consequences for them. If you are under the age of 14, the law is a bit uncertain when it comes to consent. As a result, even if you are able to consent, some medical centres may require you to have your parents’ permission before they perform an abortion procedure. Parents can also, in some circumstances, consent to a procedure on your behalf, even if you don’t consent. However, this requires a court order.  

The father does not need to know about the pregnancy, or consent to the abortion for the procedure to be performed, as parenting rights only come into existence once a child is born.

Can I put the child up for adoption?

You might decide to have the baby but may not feel that you are able to (or want to) raise the child yourself. You may decide you want to put the child up for adoption.  This means the child will legally and permanently become part of a new family, and the birth parents no longer have legal rights over the child and cannot claim the child back. This means the birth parents will not be able to make decisions for the child or have any responsibilities over the child. All adoption agreements must be made through the Office for Children, Youth and Family Support.

To begin the adoption process, you and the father must both agree to have the child adopted. Before you agree, the Office for Children, Youth and Family Support will offer you information about the adoption process and counselling. After both parents have agreed to the adoption, both birth parents have 28 days to change their mind about the adoption. In this period you or the father can file a notice of revocation in the Supreme Court to say that you no longer agree to have the child adopted.  After this period, an adoption order can be made which will give the adoptive parents all the legal rights over the child and the birth parents will no longer be able to make decisions for the child or have any responsibilities over the child.

Can I go to school while I’m pregnant or after I have the baby?

If you go to a public school, your school cannot ask you to leave or request that you continue your studies from home just because you are pregnant or have a baby. This is discrimination and it is illegal.  If your school asks you to leave or requests that you stay at home while you are pregnant then you should contact the Department of Education and Training or the Human Rights Commission. For more information see the School  Discrimination page

Once you have the baby, you may like to return to school or engage in flexible or part time study.  You should talk to your school to discuss the best options and what will work well for you.

Unfortunately, not all schools have to follow anti-discrimination law Religious schools do not have to follow some anti-discrimination laws. This means that if pregnancy or having a child is against their religious beliefs, private schools are able to:

  • expel you for being pregnant;
  • ask you to leave for the duration of the pregnancy;
  • ask you to study from home while you are pregnant;
  • deny you access to other benefits you would ordinarily receive if you were not pregnant; or
  • refuse your application for admission because you are pregnant.

Whilst you are pregnant

In order to improve the health outcomes for your baby, it is important you avoid the following:

  • Alcohol – both during your pregnancy and also after the baby is born, if you choose to breastfeed. The alcohol you drink, the baby drinks as well! Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause your baby to have Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) which could cause your baby to be born with health defects, attention and learning difficulties and a low birth weight.
  • Smoking – smoking increases the risk of miscarriage and harms the growth and development of babies. If you need help to stop smoking, you can contact Quitline on 137 848.
  • Caffeine – it is recommended that you limit your caffeine intake. Remember that energy drinks like Red Bull have a lot of caffeine in them.

If a doctor suspects that you are not taking care of your baby whilst you are pregnant, they can make a ‘pre-natal report’, which is a report to child services for an unborn baby. There is an obligation on the doctor to report if they have grounds to believe the child is at risk of serious harm to their birth, for example, as a result of the mother binge drinking during pregnancy.

If you are having any issues during your pregnancy, or have any questions about how to best take care of your baby, you can call the Australian government Pregnancy, Birth and Baby hotline on 1800 882 436.

What do I have to do after the baby is born?

After you have the baby, you must register the birth at the Office of Regulatory Services: Births, Deaths and Marriages Registry within 6 months of the child’s birth. You must register the birth even if the baby was not born in a hospital. The hospital, doctor, or midwife will give you the forms to fill out to register the baby’s birth. There is no cost to register your child. However, if you want a birth certificate you will need to pay a fee of $42 plus postage.

Health care after the baby is born

After giving birth, some women experience ‘post-natal depression’. Post-natal depression develops between one month and up to one year after the birth of a baby and is surprisingly common, affecting one in seven women who give birth each year. Many women feel teary, moody or anxious for a few days after having a baby. Post-natal depression however, lasts longer and is more serious. Make sure you see a healthcare professional if you think you are experiencing post-natal depression.  

If you have the baby, your baby will be entitled to free health care through Medicare.  During the first years of the baby’s life, your baby may require many important immunisations. It is not compulsory to immunise your baby however your child’s history of immunisations must be given to the school when you enrol your child into school for the first time and your child may be excluded from school if there is an outbreak of a contagious disease at the school if he or she is not immunised.

In the Australian Capital Territory, Child and Family Centres provide a valuable free service to help new parents care for and raise their baby. Centres offer information for new parents on areas like breastfeeding, the baby’s growth and development, immunisation and safety. All these services are offered free of charge to ACT residents.

A list of the early childhood centres near you can be found at the ACT Community Services website.

Going back to school after the baby is born

If you are school age and have a baby you can still attend school. Education institutions recognise the importance of everyone having access to learning. Some schools have developed education and support programs for pregnant and parenting students. In conjunction with ACT Health the schools offer flexible learning plans and support services such as:

  • Online curriculum;
  • Access to community support agencies;
  • Child immunisations onsite;
  • Antenatal nurse visits;
  • Transport assistance;
  • Child minding and Playgroup;
  • Adopt a grandparent program;
  • Access to employment agencies.

You can read more about going back to school with a baby here.

For more general information, the Australian government has created this resource. It includes fact sheets on a range of issues related to pregnancy.

If you have a question about pregnancy that we haven’t answered here you can get help here.

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