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 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 counsellor. You can also try the following organisations:

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, the most important issue is to make sure you receive health care and support throughout your pregnancy.  It is important for you to talk to a healthcare professional, who will be able to best explain all the options you have and their consequences. In Australia, free medical treatment is provided to all citizens and permanent residents through the Medicare system. For more information see this 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 give you medical help without telling your parents. This means whatever treatment the doctor suggests for you or whatever you discuss with the doctor is private, so 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 our page on your rights at the doctor.

If you are concerned about disclosing private information to your doctor, you can ask them about confidentiality (whether your information will stay private) at the beginning of the appointment, before you even disclose you are pregnant. However, even if the doctor agrees not to tell your parents if they think you might be at risk of serious harm, they have an obligation to report to child services. In this circumstance, your parents will eventually find out. “Risk of serious harm” includes if your physical or psychological needs are not being met, if you are not receiving necessary medical care or if you have been sexually abused.

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 that your parents will disapprove or be upset when they find out you are pregnant, but they could also be a source of support. Depending on your age and circumstances, they may need to find out eventually, so it might be worth telling them yourself first.

If you need some help telling your parents you are pregnant you can call the Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800, which offers a free counselling service.

There are also some helpful tips on how to tell someone you are pregnant on this 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?

In NSW, it is unlawful for a person to perform an abortion on themselves using a drug, instrument or anything else. Abortions are only lawful if

  • The procedure is performed by a doctor;
  • You are able to consent (agree) and have consented to the abortion;
  • The doctor honestly believes that an abortion is necessary to prevent serious danger to your life, or your physical or mental health that might occur during the pregnancy or after the birth of the child; and
  • The danger of the abortion procedure is not out of proportion to the danger of continuing the pregnancy.

Each of these requirements will be explained below.

Able to consent

If you are under 18, to consent to an abortion, the doctor must think you are mature enough to understand the procedure and what is involved. A person under the age of 14 cannot consent to medical treatment, even if the doctor thinks they are mature enough to understand what’s involved. In this circumstance, you need your parent’s permission to get an abortion.

As an abortion is a serious procedure, the level of consent required would be greater than for a normal appointment. Understanding the procedure means you should be given information about possible risks and complications, as well as told about the psychological and emotional feelings commonly experienced after an abortion.  

If you are over 14 and the doctor thinks you can consent, there is no requirement for the father to consent or even be aware of the procedure as parenting rights only come to existence once the child is born.

For more information, see our page on your rights at the doctor.

The Doctor honestly believes that an abortion is necessary to prevent serious danger to your life, or physical or mental health

In order to determine whether continuing the pregnancy is necessary, the doctor is able to consider any economic, social or medical factors that might affect you. For example, the doctor might consider where you are living, where you will be living if you have the baby, your ability to support and care for the baby, and the level of mental stress caused by the pregnancy or the baby. If the doctor honestly believes that having the baby will cause serious harm to your life, or to your mental or physical health, they might believe that the abortion procedure is necessary.

The danger of abortion is not out of proportion to the danger of continuing the pregnancy

This requires the doctor to compare the dangers of performing the abortion procedure on you with the dangers of continuing the pregnancy. In doing so, the doctor might consider at what stage of the pregnancy you are at when you want to get an abortion. The later in the pregnancy that you want to have an abortion, the more dangerous the operation will be for you. This means that a doctor may not want to perform an abortion after 10 or 12 weeks of you being pregnant, because the danger of the operation can outweigh the dangers of continuing with the pregnancy.

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 Department of Child Services.

To begin the adoption process, you and the father must agree to have the child adopted. After both parents have agreed to the adoption, both birth parents have 30 days to change their mind about the adoption. In this period you or the father can write to the Department of Child Services 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.

If you are under 18 years of age, you must have independent legal advice before you give consent to the adoption.  

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, the NSW Anti-Discrimination Tribunal or the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission.  For more information see the 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 religious 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 Births, Deaths and Marriages Registry within 60 days 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.

Healthcare 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. There is currently no law that requires you to get your child immunised. However, your child’s history of immunisations must be given to childcare and school when you enrol your child and your child will be excluded from school if there is an outbreak of a contagious disease at the school if he or she is not immunised. You can claim back the cost of the immunisations through Medicare.

In New South Wales, the Children’s Healthcare Network provides a valuable free service to help new parents care for and raise their baby. The hospital where you have your baby will advise you where your closest clinic is.  

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’re under 25 and you have a question about pregnancy that we haven’t answered here, please ask us a question here and we can give you some free information and advice.

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