No matter what kind of relationship you have with him, it is always a challenge to decide how to tell the father about an unplanned pregnancy. In some cases, you may even wonder if you should tell him at all.

Every woman’s situation is different, and there are many ways to involve the father in your pregnancy. On this page, you can learn about the role of fathers in multiple scenarios and what you need to do, especially in cases where you are not married or he is not an active part of your life.

How to Tell the Father of an Unplanned Pregnancy

If you plan on raising your baby or placing him or her for adoption as a result of your unwanted pregnancy, the father will usually need to be given the news about your pregnancy and future plans. Consider the following advice when you first tell him you are pregnant:

  • If possible, meet in person – An unplanned pregnancy is a life-changing event, and meeting in person will allow you both to give it your full attention.
  • Be honest and straightforward – When you are first giving him the news, it is best to simply give the facts. There will most likely be time for more in-depth discussions as you move forward.
  • Let him process his feelings – You probably needed some time to cope with your unplanned pregnancy, and your baby’s father needs the same.
  • Let him know what you want – If you know what you want to do about your unplanned pregnancy or what you expect from him, make sure he knows, too.

It is not always recommended to tell the father about your pregnancy, especially in circumstances that would pose a risk to your safety. If you are concerned about whether or not you should talk to the father, contact a pregnancy center or legal professional for assistance.

In most cases, however, telling your husband or boyfriend about an unplanned pregnancy is for the best. If you are unsure of how to tell the father of an unplanned pregnancy, there are many counselors available to prepare you for this conversation and help ensure your safety.

Laws for Unmarried Men and Unplanned Pregnancy

Just as there are laws to protect you in the event of a pregnancy, there are laws to protect the father of an unplanned pregnancy, as well.

Each state has its own legal definition of “father,” which determines when and how a man can establish his parental rights. A putative father is generally defined as a man who does not have a legal relationship with a child but who identifies himself or is identified by someone else to be the father of the child. In many states, a presumed father is a man who meets the following requirements:

  • He was married to or attempted to marry the mother within 300 days of the birth
  • He is listed on the child’s birth certificate
  • He has acknowledged paternity in writing
  • He is obligated to support the child
  • He has lived with the child and claimed the child to be his

Depending on the decision you make for your unplanned pregnancy, the father may have certain rights or responsibilities:

In Parenting

If your child’s father has acknowledged his paternity or registered with a putative father registry, then he will have rights to see the child and obligations to provide financial support. If paternity has been established, you can ask the court to order the father to pay child support. Additionally, the father can also take actions to gain custody of the child.

If you are planning on raising your child, it is in your best interests to notify the father unless doing so would be impossible or unsafe. This way, you and the father can work out a parenting agreement before the baby is born.

In Adoption

Fathers also have the right to contest or consent to an adoption. In most cases, the adoption process will go most smoothly by notifying the father of the adoption and giving him the opportunity to voluntarily terminate his rights. If he chooses to contest the adoption, he must be able to provide sufficient evidence that he plans to care for the child.

If the father does not respond to notification of adoption or shows no intention of being in the child’s life, his rights may be terminated involuntarily.

In Abortion

Legally, you do not need the father’s consent to obtain an abortion.

What to Do Next

After you have considered your options, you can decide whether you want to raise your baby, place the baby for adoption, or have an abortion. How you take your next steps will depend largely on your relationship with the father.

Oftentimes, when women are considering how to tell a boyfriend or husband about an unplanned pregnancy, they ask, “How do men react to unplanned pregnancy?” Every man is different, and the answer to this question is not one-size-fits-all. A man’s reaction to unplanned fatherhood will depend upon his willingness to have a child at this time in his life, given his personal situation and his readiness for this responsibility.

If your baby’s father is supportive, he can be an invaluable source of strength and support. As you figure out your unplanned pregnancy together, keep some of these things in mind:

  • Help him sort out his own emotions – Both of you will need to deal with the feelings you are having if you want to make a decision together.
  • Listen to his perspective – You may not agree with everything he has to say, but it can help you to understand where he is coming from.
  • Let him know how he can help – Whether you need a ride to a doctor’s appointment or just someone to talk to, your baby’s father can be a great help as you figure things out.

Taking your next steps with an unsupportive or uninvolved father will depend on what you want to do. If you and the father cannot agree on a plan, or if you are unable to locate the father, seek the help of a legal professional.

When considering what to do about an unplanned pregnancy, the father may play a large role in your decision — or he may not play a role at all. While it’s a good idea to learn more about how to tell the father of an unplanned pregnancy, it’s equally important that you do what is best for your safety in this situation.

If you have more questions about your pregnancy, your options, or the baby’s father, please contact a counselor or pregnancy center in your area.