Providing Options Counseling

Overview

A pregnant person has several options: abortion, carrying the pregnancy to term and parenting, or choosing adoption. Because many individuals learn of their pregnancy through a home-pregnancy test, they may turn to trusted health and social service providers for additional information and resources. Such providers can offer comprehensive options counseling to assist a pregnant person in making her decision about which option is best for her.

High-quality options counseling offers non-judgmental and compassionate discussion of the choices a person has when she learns she is pregnant. Counseling should be unbiased and nondirective; healthcare providers should educate patients on all the legal and medical options available. Providers who cannot set aside their own biases should refer to someone who can. Counselors should offer medically accurate and factual answers to questions about prenatal care, parenting, adoption and abortion. When appropriate, a counselor can then offer referrals to help the pregnant person carry out her choice.

Options counseling should take place in a safe, confidential setting and should help an individual determine how she feels about the pregnancy, her values, resources and plans for the future. Counseling may take place privately, but can also include partners, parents or others that the pregnant person would like to have involved. However, a counselor should ask in private whether she would like to involve others. When possible, all counseling should take place in a language in which the pregnant person feels comfortable communicating.

The information in the next section (The Options) highlights key considerations for each option. 

Values clarification 

Pregnancy options counseling should not involve advocacy of any one option. It is especially important for the provider to identify and understand his/her own values and beliefs when conducting pregnancy options counseling (particularly with adolescents). Health care and social service providers can also assess their own comfort with discussing different options through values clarification exercises, such as this one available here.