Jess’s story below is a common one for young women on the streets. The stress of unstable living and financial circumstances, in addition to their lack of education and experience, make it hard to notice the symptoms of pregnancy early on. Once pregnancy is detected they often lack the supports needed to make healthy decisions around pregnancy options.
I woke up this morning and saw I finally got my period. I’m pretty happy about that ‘cause I was starting to get worried. It’s very light, which is a good thing ‘cause I don’t have any cash to buy tampons. It’s been a rough couple of months and I am so tired, sleeping on a different couch every night is starting to wipe me out. It’s not helping that I have to get up and pee during the night. I wonder if the free clinic can check me for a bladder infection.
- When was your last period? Was it normal?
- Do you usually get regular periods (normal is between every 23-36 days)
- Are you sexually active?
- Do you use birth control (hormonal contraception and/or condoms)?
- Do you take your birth control correctly and consistently?
- Do you have any symptoms of pregnancy?
- Is there a chance you might be pregnant?
- A missed period, especially if it has been more than a week.
- Nausea with or without vomiting (“morning sickness”). This is typical during first 6-12 weeks of pregnancy and is often worse in the morning but can occur any time of day.
- Breast tenderness, swelling, heaviness, tingling or soreness.
- Increased frequency of urination.
- Fatigue, which is most common in first trimester, less common in the second trimester.
- Irregular bleeding – some women have irregular bleeding on and off, or bleeding around the time that one would expect their period.
- Food cravings and food aversions.
- Mood changes.
- Lower back pain.
- Nasal congestion.
- Uterine cramping.
- Shortness of breath (not otherwise explained).
Urine pregnancy tests can be done in the home, doctor’s office, or laboratory. A urine pregnancy test is usually done after missing a period. If the test is done too soon, the result may not be accurate. If the test is negative and the period does not come, the test should be repeated in one or two weeks.
If a home pregnancy test is done, make sure to follow the instructions on the kit carefully and that it hasn’t passed its expiry date. Use a first morning urine sample because that is when the level of hormone is highest.
The ECP works best if taken within first 24 hours but can be used up to 5 days. Levonorgestrel ECPs can be bought at a pharmacy without a prescription, or found at many family doctors, walk in clinics or Alberta Health Services Sexual and Reproductive Health Clinics. For information on community resources, click here. A newer type of ECP, ulipristal acetate is also available by prescription. The Copper IUD needs to be inserted into the uterus by a trained health care professional. Youth should be encouraged to call their local clinic to see if this if offered.
A person should do a pregnancy test if their period does not come within three weeks of using EC, or if the period is much lighter than normal. For more information on ECPs, click here.
- Continuing with the pregnancy and choosing to parent.
- Continuing with the pregnancy and choosing adoption.
- Ending the pregnancy and choosing abortion.
- Planning for meeting the basic physical, emotional, medical, social and developmental needs of the child.
- Preparing for lifestyle changes such as changes to daily routine or recreational activities.
- Learning about healthy parenting.
- Choosing childcare options if the parent(s) will be in school or at work.
- Accessing supports.
Public adoptions are arranged by government agencies such as The Government of Alberta Children and Youth Services. The services provided by the government agencies are confidential and free for birthparents. Depending on the province, the process will vary.
Private adoption is any adoption that is not arranged by a public agency. Private adoptions include fees established by the private adoption agency that are paid by the adoptive parents. The services are offered free of charge for birth parents. Adoptions may be open, closed, or somewhere in between. Deciding to have an open or closed adoption is a personal choice which depends on the comfort levels of the birth parent(s) and adoptive parents.
- Direct adoption: A private direct adoption means that the birthparent(s) have chosen to place their child directly with a known family or within their own family. Private adoption agencies can assist with this process.
- Open adoption: An open adoption refers to any situation where the adoptive parent(s) and the birth parent(s) know each other and exchange identifying information. Just how much information they exchange depends on the level of comfort of each person(s). With an open adoption, the birth parent(s) may choose how involved they wish to be in the child’s life including:
> Meeting the adoptive parent(s).
> Having an ongoing relationship with the adoptive parent(s) and the child.
> Giving letters or photos.
> Receiving photos of the child as the child grows.
- Closed adoption: In a closed adoption, no identifying information is exchanged. It is unlikely that the birth parent(s) and the adoptive parent(s) meet. The birth parent(s) may ask that they receive no information once the child has been placed.
Most abortions happen during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. If the woman has Alberta Health Care, there are no fees for the procedure. Fees apply if the woman does not have Alberta Health Care.
- Getting prenatal care with a health care professional.
- Developing healthy eating habits.
- Staying active.
- Getting plenty of sleep.
- Limiting caffeine intake.
- Checking with a healthcare provider before taking over-the-counter drugs or prescription medications.
- Not using cigarettes, alcohol or drugs.
Having a healthy pregnancy and choosing to parent is important job which has rewards and challenges. There are many resources that can help have a healthy pregnancy.
- What is taken.
- When it is taken.
- How much is taken.
- How often it is taken.
- Whether or not different substances are taken at the same time.
- How the mother’s body reacts to the substance (Alberta Health Services, 2014a).
- Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD).
- Brain development problems.
- Learning problems.
- Face and head deformities.
- Organ, bone and muscle defects.
- Slow growth.
- Difficulty understanding consequences.
- Low birth weight.
- Withdrawal symptoms.
- Risk of mental health disorders (Alberta Health Services, 2014b).
- Addiction to the substance.
- Withdrawal symptoms.
- Brain damage.
- Difficulty being comforted.
- Inability to respond to mother.
- Higher risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
- Slower growth.
- Trouble paying attention and learning difficulties (UCSF Medical Center, 2002-2015).
- Increase the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (Alberta Health Services, 2014c).
- Increase health and learning problems in childhood (UCSF Medical Center, 2002-2015).
For more information on pregnancy, see: Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada
For more information about early pregnancy, see:
For prenatal information and support for pregnant women living on a low income or teens of any income, see:
For a resource for those experiencing pregnancy and street involvement, see:
For more information on adoptions, see:
For more information on abortion, see:
For information on abortions in Alberta, see:
Alberta Health Services. (2011). E-SYS. Enhanced street youth surveillance Edmonton site results (1999-2010). Edmonton AB: Communicable Disease Control, Alberta Health Services.
Alberta Health Services. (2014a). Healthy parents healthy children a practical guide to pregnancy and being a parent: Drugs, alcohol and Tobacco. Retrieved from, http://www.healthyparentshealthychildren.ca/starting-off-healthy/being-healthy-and-preventing-injuries/drugs-alcohol-and-tobacco/
Alberta Health Services. (2014b). Healthy parents healthy children a practical guide to pregnancy and being a parent: Alcohol. Retrieved from http://www.healthyparentshealthychildren.ca/starting-off-healthy/being-healthy-and-preventing-injuries/drugs-alcohol-and-tobacco/alcohol/
AHS Healthy Parents Healthy Children. (2014c). Healthy parents healthy children a practical guide to pregnancy and being a parent: Tobacco. Retrieved from, http://www.healthyparentshealthychildren.ca/starting-off-healthy/being-healthy-and-preventing-injuries/drugs-alcohol-and-tobacco/tobacco/
Bastian, L.A., & Brown, H.L. (2010). Diagnosis and clinical manifestations of early pregnancy. UpToDate. Retrieved from, http://www.uptodate.com/contents/clinical-manifestations-and-diagnosis-of-early-pregnancy
Calgary Sexual Health Center. (2008). Pregnant and undecided? A resource for women facing an unintended pregnancy. Calgary: Author.
Larson, C. P. (2007). Poverty during pregnancy: Its effects on child health outcomes. Paediatrics & Child Health, 12(8), 673-677.
UCSF Medical Center. (2002-2015). Substance use during pregnancy. Retrieved from, http://www.ucsfhealth.org/education/substance_use_during_pregnancy/