Unexpected Arrivals

An unexpected pregnancy may not always bring joy in its wake. Aruna Rathod talks about times when sex results in unintended consequences, and talks to experts who suggest ways to deal with it.

When Geetha Warrier, 41, a chartered accountant in a multinational company, married at 40, she and her husband had chosen not to have children, as they felt they could not take on the overwhelming responsibilities of a baby.
But six months after they were married, Geetha got accidentally pregnant, which left her depressed, confused and angry about not having taken enough precautions to avoid the situation.
Despite the anticipation of joy that comes along with being pregnant, some may not be prepared to take on the mental, physical and personal obligations that come with it. In such cases, it is natural that the partners feel trapped in the situation.
“Pregnancy may be a prospect that’s exciting to many, but when it is unplanned, it can leave some, married as well as unmarried, depressed and anxious, with a dread of the future,” explains Shreya Poddar, a couple-counsellor from Mumbai, who has handled many such cases.

Unreal expectations

Several reasons may be the cause of unexpected pregnancies, including reckless behaviour during sex—where one or both partners in the act refuse to use protection or do not use it correctly—and ignorance also adds to the situation. For example, while many believe natural methods like ‘withdrawal’ and ‘safe period’ are effective contraceptive methods, they might not be so.
Withdrawal is the method when the male partner climaxes and ejaculates outside the female partner’s vagina. Though by withdrawal, one hopes to prevent contact between the sperm and the ovum, thus reducing the possibility of pregnancy, research shows that sperms are present in the emissions before ejaculation too. Moreover, the risks in this method are high because it is especially dependent on especially the male partner’s self-knowledge and self-control.
Similarly, relying on a woman’s ‘safe period’ can be dangerous too, as sperms stay alive in the female body for four days. The risk increases if the woman’s knowledge about her ovulation is not accurate or if hormonal delays have played havoc with her period’s onset.

Overcoming the shock

One of the most common reactions doctors observe around unexpected pregnancies is shock, sometimes even leading to rushed abortions. Dr Swati Allahbadia, a Mumbai-based gynaecologist, cautions about this hasty reaction. “Abortion can, indeed, be an option in extreme cases, but most people do not realise that unless properly supervised, the abortion pills can have serious consequences too,” warns Dr Allahbadia. “So in such cases, we first try to find out if the couple is married and whether the woman is healthy or has been exposed to any harmful medication like high doses of hormones. Then, we try to counsel them to consider going through the pregnancy.”
Shreya, the couple-counsellor, insists that couples should avoid blaming each other. “Stop dwelling on the past and let go of the guilt, and work towards resolving the situation as best as possible,” she tells us. “It is especially important that the woman stops blaming herself solely. It may not be an easy task, but it’s the only path towards handling the situation. Though you may perceive it as a major concern at the moment, understand that there are ways to cope with the changes you will face once the
baby arrives.”

Emotional acceptance

For couples who’re not mentally prepared for the change, it is only natural that such an unexpected circumstance leaves them confused. And unless it is a life-threatening emergency, the understandably serious situation may have solutions waiting to be unearthed, explains Shreya. “When you end up crying or getting angry and feeling guilty, it sends you off into a panic mode. So it is most important to stop blaming yourself.”
Of course, that may seem easier said than done. Usually in such cases among married couples,
Dr Allahbadia steps in by counselling the couple. “I explain to them that there is rarely a ‘good’ time to have a baby,” she explains. “Pregnancy can change the shape of a body, hamper career progressions, and wreck one’s freedom and finances—irrespective of one's age. Then again, given the biological clock ticking away, those other things can happen any time.
So why not have a child now?”
Dr Allahbadia believes that the first eight months in hand before the baby arrives is usually a good enough period for preparations.
To build their support system, couples can arrange for help at home and train the helper so that they can return to work, as need be. “That period even gives the couple the time to think of work-from-home options too,” she adds.

Explore all perspectives

Preeti Singh, 30, was someone else who took the news of her unexpected pregnancy pretty hard at first. She was an ambitious woman who worked at a senior position in a very stressful job in Delhi, which needed her to be present at all odd hours. “I wasn’t prepared to give up my work and the freedom to work as late as possible and get back home when I pleased,” explains Preeti. But Preeti was educated about the pros and cons of ending her pregnancy. So she took time out to listen to perspectives other than hers, speaking to her closest friends and family. Discussing the pros and cons with them brought her perspectives she hadn’t thought about until then. “To begin with, abortion was something I was not comfortable about. Then, upon speaking with my close friends, I realised that unlike many other women who find themselves in this state, I was a lot more prepared in terms of caring for my baby,” adds Preeti. “I was financially independent and knew I could provide for my little one. Soon,
I began seeing the pregnancy and childbirth as a blessing—for one, it would help me slow down a little.”

Adding to the preparations

Dr Allahbadia believes that the best way to deal with the situation is to discuss the issue with one’s partner. “Work out the social, physical, psychological and financial issues together,” she adds. “For those employed, understand how many days of maternity leave you have. Figure out if the male partner's income would suffice until you choose to get back to a full-time job. And while you are at it, figure out which of you will be the stay-at-home parent after the baby arrives, etc.”
Dr Allahbadia also suggests that women may continue working till about 7-8 months of pregnancy, as long as they have no health concerns.
A child’s arrival brings with it many unexpected expenses, so a couple need to plan their finances well. “Stop splurging on random things and start saving,” Shreya advises. “Another way to do it is to start an emergency fund. If you have an existing emergency fund to cover the financial curveballs like medical bills or a layoff, then start adding to it. But if you don’t have it, then start one, and ensure you get a life and health insurance.
But no matter what, remember, there is always light at the end of the tunnel.”

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