If you find yourself homeless and pregnant, you may be unsure of what to do next. Being pregnant is likely the last thing you expected in your situation. After all, when you don’t have stable housing, you cannot always guarantee safety for yourself — so how will you take care of a baby, too?

Remember this: You are not the first pregnant, homeless woman, and you will certainly not be the last. About four percent of women in the nation experience homelessness within 12 months before pregnancy. There is no shame or stigma in your situation, and there are resources and options available to help you. We encourage you to consider what is best for your personal situation when deciding what to do next.

Being homeless and pregnant is a complicated circumstance to be in. But, in this article, you’ll find important information to help you decide which path is right for you.

Your Unplanned Pregnancy Options

Like all women facing an unplanned pregnancy, pregnant, homeless women have three basic options. It’s important to understand them all and their repercussions before you decide which one is right for you. If you are homeless, pregnant and unsure of what to do, learn more about your options below.

Abortion

As a pregnant woman, you will always have the right to choose an abortion — as long as you are early enough in your pregnancy. Different states have different laws on abortion. If you are later than 20 weeks in your pregnancy, abortion may not be an option for you.

States also have certain laws for minors receiving abortions. For example, if you are 16, pregnant and homeless and considering an abortion, you may need a parent or guardian’s consent to undergo this procedure.

You may also need to wait a certain amount of time between your first appointment and the actual procedure, depending on your state’s laws. While this can be difficult for any woman who is forced to travel for an abortion, it can be even more so for women who are homeless and pregnant.

Finally, keep this in mind before pursuing abortion — it can cost anywhere from hundreds to thousands of dollars, especially if you do not plan to use insurance. Planned Parenthood and other agencies may provide financial assistance for this medical procedure, but you should be aware of this financial commitment before choosing this path.

If you are homeless and pregnant and need help obtaining an abortion, please contact your local Planned Parenthood. Do not attempt to induce an abortion on your own, as this is incredibly dangerous no matter your situation.

Parenting

If you are homeless and pregnant, you may consider parenting your child. However, homeless, pregnant mothers have many more challenges to face than expectant parents in a more stable place in their lives.

Before deciding to raise your child, ask yourself this: Can I give my son or daughter the life they deserve? Am I willing to take advantage of programs for homeless pregnant women and work hard to put myself in a better place for my child?

Raising a child is expensive — on average, it will cost more than $230,000 over 18 years. You will need to be able to provide your child a safe living environment, opportunities for education and medical care, and more to be a successful parent. Being a parent is difficult enough on its own but, when you are beginning your journey as a homeless person, it will be that much harder.

It’s not uncommon for children born to homeless parents to experience a separation at some point in their lives, either through a formal placement into the foster care system or an informal placement with a friend or relative. In fact, the rates of foster care placement are much higher among children of homeless parents. If you are considering parenting your baby, you may also consider a temporary guardianship for your baby. This way, you can provide your baby a stable home with a friend or relative until you can find a more stable living situation for yourself — and avoid the possibility of child welfare services becoming involved.

If you are willing to take the steps to provide a better situation for your unborn child, start by contacting programs that offer homeless transitional shelters for pregnant women like you. Consider reaching out to these national programs to learn more about the resources for homeless pregnant women:

Adoption

It’s not uncommon for homeless pregnant women to be looking at adoption for their unborn baby. An expectant mother may already know that parenting is not a viable option for her situation, and so she instead considers adoption to give her child the chance at a life she cannot provide at this time.

You can always choose adoption when you are pregnant and homeless, no matter how early or late in your pregnancy you are. However, the earlier you contact an adoption professional, the earlier you can start receiving necessary prenatal care, housing assistance, financial aid for living expenses and more. Adoption will always be free to you, and an adoption professional will make sure you receive the services you need to have a successful adoption journey.

When you choose adoption, you will be able to choose the adoptive family for your baby, as well as the amount of future contact you have with them. Your adoption professional can mediate this contact, but it can be difficult to receive letters and photos when you do not have a permanent address. Therefore, open adoption may be a bit more complicated in your situation.

However, your adoption professional will work closely with you to keep you connected with the adoptive family for up to 18 years after your baby is born. As long as you keep your contact information up to date with your professional, they will do everything in their power to facilitate your open adoption contact.

If you are thinking about placing your baby for adoption as a pregnant homeless woman, reach out to one of these national adoption agencies:

What Should You Do Next?

At this point, you may be asking: “I’m pregnant and homeless. What can I do moving forward?”

If you are planning to continue your pregnancy, either to eventually place your baby with an adoptive family or raise him or her yourself, you should immediately seek out homeless shelters for pregnant women. Housing for homeless pregnant mothers like you is essential, as it will provide a safe, stable place for you to stay during your pregnancy. Some maternity homes may even help you obtain prenatal care and offer classes on parenting.

Spending the majority of your pregnancy homeless is unsafe and will put you and your unborn baby in danger. Homeless women are nearly three times more likely to have a preterm delivery than housed women, and access to proper prenatal care is extremely limited when living on the streets, especially with a limited income. However, there are resources available to you, and we encourage you to take advantage of them to protect yourself and your baby. Consider contacting national programs like the Homeless Prenatal Program or your local women’s shelter for help for homeless pregnant women like you.

If you are considering adoption, adoption agencies and professionals can help you obtain the help for homeless pregnant women that you need — including medical care, housing, legal protection and more. You are never obligated to choose adoption for your unborn baby, but pursuing this path can provide your baby (and you) the care you need during your pregnancy.

Even if you choose to terminate your pregnancy, please take advantage of the shelters and services near you. Living on the streets can be difficult, and you deserve the opportunities available to improve your situation.

Remember: If you are homeless and pregnant, you do have options. Please contact your local shelter or support services for assistance during your pregnancy and in determining which path is best for you.