An unexpected pregnancy brings with it a lot of emotion and change. While thousands of women go through this challenge each year, each one may feel completely alone.

The emotions and reactions a woman has to her unplanned pregnancy are actually quite common and seem to follow a similar pattern—shock, fear, denial and eventually a realization that she is pregnant. All of these are typical reactions. Even married couples can go through this process when pregnancy is unplanned. The explanations below will help you feel more at ease with what you may be feeling.

SHOCK AND FEAR

Shock is not exactly the best way to describe the first emotion you feel when you learn that you are pregnant. “Run over by a truck” seems more apt. Whether or not you were doing your best to prevent pregnancy when it happened, the news of it will be a shock. It is usually hard to believe that this is happening to you. You have probably never had to deal with such a life-changing situation.

Shock is not usually the hardest part to handle, because it eventually dissolves as fear starts to kick in. You stop thinking, “I cannot believe I am pregnant,” and start thinking, “What is everyone else going to think of me now that I am pregnant?” You may fear rejection from your friends, family, or boyfriend. Worse yet, you may be afraid of how this will affect your future in relationships, marriage, schooling, and a career.

All of these fears are natural. Fear is the first emotion our brain uses to sort things out in a crisis situation. But fear tends to distort the real picture, so it’s important to be able to talk with someone about your fears. Once you have opened up to a counselor or friend about your situation, he or she can help you deal with your fears.

Remember, you are looking at the forest through the trees, whereas a friend will have a bird’s eye view. A friend can help you to know which of your fears are real and which are imagined.

DENIAL AND ACCEPTANCE

After fear, the most common response is denial. It is easy to treat the problem as if it does not exist. Denial is normal and can actually be good if you use it as a time to regroup and prepare for the realities that face you.

Eventually, with support from friends and with your own inner strength, you will emerge from the denial stage and start taking on the tasks at hand. First, you will have to decide how to manage your pregnancy. Ask yourself, “What are my options?” Can I support and raise a child? If not, do I want to create an adoption plan for him or her? Can I even consider abortion, or is marriage an option? These serious issues need serious answers, and at some point you may feel pressured by a loved one or a peer to make a decision you do not feel good about. Even if you do agree, you must arrive at that decision yourself. You must feel that you “own” your decision, because it will affect you throughout your life.

There will probably be sadness or loss involved in whatever option you choose, but with a positive and practical outlook, doors of opportunity will open for you.

If you think through your decision clearly after learning all that you can about each of your options, you will feel good about your decision, knowing that you did what was best for you.