Odds that she’s pregnant? Options if she is?

Dear Alice,

My girlfriend is approximately five days late on her menstrual cycle, and we are getting nervous. We are living in separate cities, but I flew out for a weekend visit. We engaged only once while I was there, and it was 23 or 24 days after her last menstruation. We did have unprotected sex, but I did not ejaculate. We are both completely monogamous, as well. Is it possible that a pregnancy even occurred? The odds seem so small, yet we are still so worried. I also wonder if in a couple of weeks, it hasn't shown up and she takes a pregnancy test and it turns out to be a pregnancy, what we will do. We will probably want to abort immediately, but we don't know where it is legal, how much it will cost, and if there is a possibility of having it done with neither of our families needing to know or be involved. So how much do first trimester abortions cost, and where can they be performed? Are we just being paranoid or is there a real possibility here?

— Concerned Boyfriend

Dear Concerned Boyfriend, 

Your questions represent the types of concerns that typically rush through people's minds when they encounter the chance of an unexpected pregnancy. While it's not really possible to know the "odds" of whether your girlfriend is pregnant, knowing more about your options when it comes to abortion, adoption, and parenting and discussing a plan of action with your girlfriend might help calm both of your nerves. 

To gain a little certainty in an unexpected situation, the first step of your plan might be to take a pregnancy test. Pregnancy tests are often available over-the-counter (OTC) from pharmacies or from a health care provider’s office; in either case, there's no need for yours or her family to find out that she's taken a test. If your girlfriend would like to have a test with a health care provider, and she has health insurance, she might find out what type of coverage she has and whether testing from a primary care provider will show up on any bills that may be seen by her family. If so, another option could be to visit a Planned Parenthood. If either of you are students, you could make an appointment with your student health center. Both types of health centers are accustomed to helping patients who need to keep their testing confidential. 

If your girlfriend is not pregnant, it might be helpful to consider how will you feel? Relieved? Wary of another pregnancy scare? Before having sex again, your girlfriend might consider starting birth control, if she hasn’t already, so that you both may feel more at ease if you’re having unprotected sex. To help the two of you decide what method is right for you, she might consider speaking with a health promotion specialist or a health care provider about what contraceptive options are available given her lifestyle and insurance status. If there does happen to be a time when the two of you are "swept away with passion" and no pregnancy prevention methods are used, emergency contraception is available OTC at many pharmacies. No prescriptions are needed, and proof-of-age shouldn’t be required to purchase it. 

On the other hand, if your girlfriend is pregnant, considering how you would feel in this scenario can be equally as important. If she is pregnant, it can be important to remember that the decision to terminate—abort—the pregnancy is a decision both of you can be involved in. However, your girlfriend may be the one to make the final call. Most states require that a pregnant person have what's called "options counseling" or “waiting periods” before having an abortion. In these sessions, a pregnant person, and possibly their partner, may be able to discuss the different types of abortion options available. Or, if they’re not sure that abortion is the right choice, the pregnant person can discuss their feelings and learn more about abortion, adoption, or becoming a parent. The cost of an abortion can vary, beginning around $400 or $500 but possibly costing more, depending on insurance coverage, the provider, and when the abortion is performed. Many health insurance plans, including plans provided by universities for their students, may cover abortion; your girlfriend might consider calling her insurance company to find out more. 

Whether your girlfriend is pregnant or not and the decision you make if she is may affect both of you differently or change the dynamic of your relationship. If you do need to make a decision about a pregnancy, it may help to think about questions, together or with a mental health professional, such as: How do I feel about abortion? How do I feel about having a baby? How will I help pay for any necessary medical care? A family planning clinic, like Planned Parenthood, may be able to provide related services or refer you to other resources. 

If your girlfriend is 18 or older, and she lives in a state where abortion is still legal, she’ll be able to have an abortion without parental consent (some states do require parental consent for minors). However, if she doesn't want her family to find out, she may also need to confirm where any medical bills or insurance documents should be sent. While many people in your situation often have similar concerns that their parents will be upset at the prospect of an unplanned pregnancy, you may plan to not have their support. Have you thought about how yours or your girlfriend's parents might react? Might they support you in making your own decisions? Would they be able to provide emotional support, or maybe even financial support? While you may not need to inform either of your families about having an abortion, depending on your ages, it's possible they would be an unexpected source of empathy, compassion, or help with logistics. 

One final note: if your girlfriend does end up being pregnant and you do decide that abortion is the route you’d like to take, it can be important to make sure you are meeting with a licensed and reputable abortion care provider. In a post-Roe v. Wade world, there are a number of facilities that exist under the guise of helping people explore pregnancy options—often called Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPCs)—that instead work to deter, dissuade, and may even encourage unethical pregnancy management in order to prevent someone from getting an abortion. To ensure that you’re meeting with a provider that offers abortion services, you might consider checking into resources like Planned Parenthood, the National Abortion Federation, or the National Network of Abortion Funds

Go Ask Alice! has a number of related questions that may be helpful in providing you two with information about fertility time frames; early signs of pregnancy; testing for pregnancy; and concerns about cost, confidentiality, insurance coverage, legality, after-care, and referral regarding abortion. Hopefully taking things step-by-step will help quell the questions and concerns rushing through your mind and help both of you feel comfortable about your decisions. 

Take care, 

Last updated Jul 21, 2023
Originally published Nov 01, 1996

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