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Sexual Health (young people)

Thinking about pregnancy and abortion

Most of us will know someone who got pregnant whilst still at school, or who had kids shortly after they left. Although people we interviewed agreed that teenagers can make good parents, the only real advantage most suggested is that people can 'grow up with' their children. Most agreed that being a young single parent is tough and having a partner or supportive family would make things easier.

 

Says that most of her school class mates now have children

Says that most of her school class mates now have children

Age at interview: 23
Sex: Female
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Oh loads of them, loads of them, I mean it was something like, when I was at school when I was 15 or 16, about 50 - 60 percent of them actually got pregnant or have children now. A lot of the ones I see, they have children or are married or whatever.   

 

What are your views about that, about them being teenage mothers? 

 

Teenage mothers' Well I'm not a big fan of that I must admit, because we all got sex education at school, but it's funny that some people actually chose to take the advice and listen and some people didn't that's really funny. 

 

It goes out of their minds, I mean they forget that they can get pregnant, get diseases or whatever' 

 

Yeah, because we're all in the same class and it just surprises me that would happen to some of them, I don't know what their reasoning is or anything. 

 

Yeah, because I had a very close friend when I was at school, I was closest with her in my class and when I found out she became pregnant it really did upset me because I thought we were both going to go to college together, you know. She had her own life and we kind of drifted and we went our own separate ways. I really loved her, it really, really upset me, you know. I don't want to sound like children are bad or anything, I mean there's nothing wrong with having children and things like that and having families'

 

I understand that, but I think one of her reasons about being pregnant was like, it's not that it happened by accident, it was probably because she was lonely and it was like ok, she needed somebody to care for, she wanted someone to care for her, she needed that unconditional love.   

 

Says that friends who are young fathers are struggling and that he at the moment is enjoying his...

Says that friends who are young fathers are struggling and that he at the moment is enjoying his...

Age at interview: 22
Sex: Male
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Do you think you would want children?

Maybe later on in life when I'm in my 30s, when I'm ready to, you know, commit to a relationship and, yeah, to a family. Once I've got my career goals out of the way and once I've lived my life and, you know, once I've enjoyed myself really.

OK. 

'Cos I'm working now and, and I'm enjoying life and I kind of want to hold onto that for a bit longer.

Have any of your contemporaries from school had children yet?

I had one friend who, well I have a couple now, they've been married and one of them had  a child recently. And at the age of 22, I looked at him and I said, 'Way too early to have children'.  'Cos now they're really struggling.  He tried going into business with her father meantime that didn't work out and I just said, 'Should always wait until everything is, you know, stable. You know your surroundings, your home family life'. Where I, once I've been stable and sorted and you know about, you know, you can, you know, move with a family then it's cool, go ahead with it.
 

Thinks most teenage mothers are silly, but knows one young mother who is married and seems very...

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Thinks most teenage mothers are silly, but knows one young mother who is married and seems very...

Age at interview: 22
Sex: Female
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One of my friends had two before we'd left sixth form ' and there were, I think there were three girls having babies when we did our GCSEs, because, I mean, I lived ' I think partly because of the area where I lived, there was nothing else to do but have sex, and a lot of them ' 

I think several of them just had babies to get houses and to get out of school, and a lot more since I left school, have had babies, and I just couldn't imagine it. But then they couldn't imagine going to university and, to them, having babies was what they wanted to do, so '

I think they were silly. One of the girls, she didn't even get GCSEs, because she left to have her baby. You know, she's just like, what can you offer a baby if you've got no education?  You know?  You're going to be ' you're going to end up working all hours god sends, in a supermarket stacking shelves. And, to me, that just seems like ' you might ' you could give it all the love in the world, but a baby can't live on love alone.  

You know, you've gotta ' and one of the girls who had a baby, her mum ended up ' not adopting it, but looking after it, so the baby thought she was her sister anyway. And you think, 'Well, that's ridiculous.  Why did you bother having it?' you know, 'if you obviously didn't want it that much'. But then another one, she had a baby, and she's since married the father, and they're living very happily, and he's got a job and he ' because he's got some sort of education, and they're very happy, so I think it depends on the situation.  

But I think a lot more people should be given those ' you know, like those dolls that act like newborns, sort of thing, I think a lot more girls should be given those before they have babies.
Many people believe the UK's high teenage pregnancy rate is a disgrace and blame British attitudes to sex, and poor sex education in schools (see 'Experiences of young mothers' and 'Experiences of young fathers').
 

Feels sorry for teenage mothers and thinks that the government and schools should do something. ...

Feels sorry for teenage mothers and thinks that the government and schools should do something. ...

Age at interview: 18
Sex: Female
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What are your views about teenagers having children?

I feel really sorry for them, I mean obviously if it happens, you happen to fall pregnant and you're a teenager it's a very difficult decision to make, one of my friends didn't know until she was five months pregnant, and by that time obviously you can't make the decision, and a lot of people of that age might not realise that they're pregnant or might not want to have an abortion or whatever. 

So I thought it's got to be quite difficult, and to have to bring up a child whilst you're still a child yourself, is got to be really hard. I mean I wouldn't want to do it, but I think that there's got to be questions asked about why they're pregnant in the first place and I think that's something that the Government or the schools really should answer, why so many people are getting pregnant at such a young age and why they're not doing anything to prevent it, these pregnancies are ruining young people's lives basically.
Ambition has been described as the 'best contraceptive' - and this was often the view of the women we interviewed who'd been to college or intend to have a career. Many are influenced by their parents instilling the need to be 'successful', and felt that having an unplanned pregnancy could be a problem. Some of those we talked to were against abortion on religious or moral grounds. Others found that their views on the subject changed as they got older.
 

Ambition is the best contraception - her family always encouraged her to succeed. (Actor)

Ambition is the best contraception - her family always encouraged her to succeed. (Actor)

Age at interview: 23
Sex: Female
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What do you think should be done to discourage girls not to get pregnant, do you have any ideas?

That's a really difficult question, let me think about that one' 

The thing is that I feel that it really does start from your own family, your family background and what your parents teach you. It's not like your parents should be like a mantra or be drumming things excessively into your head, but when they say things like, when they drum things into your head about success and you need to succeed, do well for yourself, not like in an abusive way but if they say you know, you must do well, because you can get better things for yourself then that's alright. 

If they did that like for weeks when you were younger then it just becomes this thing that you realise that you really want to do well when you're at school. So like for me, I get really good grades and you know, so that I can become really independent, can have a life that I want to have. 

I don't always want to be living in the part of London that I'm living in now, you know I want to have nice things, get educated, get a job and those sort of things, nothing can hold me back, you know that type of independent thinking. 

But you know, by having a life where your family background is not so great and your parents don't really care what you do and if you're out all night, you're drinking and they're not really interested in your school work, what that means is that they're not really interested in your social life either and what you get up to when you're out there. You end up making mistakes, you know, your parents don't really care and they really don't talk to you about it, you know.             
 

Says that he and his girlfriend used effective contraception to avoid the risk of an unwanted...

Says that he and his girlfriend used effective contraception to avoid the risk of an unwanted...

Age at interview: 19
Sex: Male
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I 'd say both, I don't think either of us would want an STI. I don't think either of us especially would like, no, having a baby would be a bit of a disaster so, I think we both feel very strongly about that.  

I mean in terms of a baby, you know, it's the sort of financial burden but also things like time pressure, that sort of thing and just, really just the whole process of my girlfriend having to go through the pregnancy, would just be very disruptive for our life at the moment and for myself as well, I mean obviously I would be supportive if anything did happen but I really wouldn't want to go through that myself at the moment. So I think the two of us are very, very good, sort of, touch wood, at making sure we're well protected.

At this time in my life I'd say it's paramount to avoid the risk of my girlfriend becoming pregnant. I mean I'm not against pregnancy or anything but I just think it needs to be at a time which isn't going to be so disruptive in our lives, both my life and my girlfriend's, I mean, obviously it would affect both of us and the baby as well. 

The way things are now we're both students, we're both living in shared accommodation, that sort of thing. So it's important that, it's important I think that we don't do anything now, that would sort of spoil our lives now as they are at the moment, so we do concentrate on sort of avoiding pregnancy and using contraception.
 

Might feel differently about having a pregnancy than she would have done as a teenager.

Might feel differently about having a pregnancy than she would have done as a teenager.

Age at interview: 21
Sex: Female
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Very important. I don't know if it's more or less important because I think at this time in my life it would start to occur to me to keep it, which it wouldn't have done until quite recently. But I feel kind of, since I've been in my twenties I've started to think abortion might be a slightly more difficult decision for me.  

When I was much younger it was always kind of, I always kind of felt like if I had a baby, if I got pregnant I'd have an abortion and that's it and that's kind of, it was quite simple and I didn't really, there wasn't so much to think about. But I think now I'd feel like maybe actually I could have a child so there are more, there's more, it's a more difficult decision, I think there's more kind of things in play about the question, I don't know.  

And so in a way that kind of makes it more important to me that I don't get pregnant so I don't have to make that decision because it would be quite hard.

Women we talked to who'd had pregnancy scares had usually thought harder about their views on abortion. Often this prompted them to review their contraceptive use, or take emergency contraception (see 'Emergency contraception'). Some people find they 'warm' to the idea of pregnancy during a scare.
 

Describes a pregnancy scare, after which she and her boyfriend resolved not to risk unprotected...

Describes a pregnancy scare, after which she and her boyfriend resolved not to risk unprotected...

Age at interview: 23
Sex: Female
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Well when I was first with my boyfriend, we'd been together about four months, well we'd been friends for about four months. He came round my house one night and I cooked him dinner and I kind of had an inkling that something might happen. We had a nice evening and he did stay over but we didn't do anything. The next night I went round his and I did end up staying the night and we had sex, that was before I was on the pill, and it was unprotected.

When it happened, it was just before the end of my cycle, so I thought you know, I trust that I'm not going to be pregnant because it was right at the end so its going to be alright.

Obviously I did know about condoms and I suggested it, but he had a real problem, I think it was psychological, he said every time he saw a condom he lost his erection, so' that's why we didn't, if any of my friends told me that now you know I'd be mortified and I would never do that again because it's quite worrying obviously. 

At that time, I was waiting for my period to come, and I thought you know, it's going to come, it's going to come and it didn't, it didn't come for about two weeks and in that time I was so scared. It was just awful, I was so scared I couldn't even do a pregnancy test I just didn't want to know. I just kept hoping that you know, its going to come, I have never been so relieved to get my period, ever.

Have you ever used emergency contraception?

No I haven't actually but I mean I definitely would because I would not want to be in that position again, being scared. I haven't, but I would.

If it happened again I would definitely use emergency contraception because I would just not want to go through that again it was just so scary. And I just, for two weeks of my life being that scared it's just not worth it when there are other precautions

Did you share your concerns with your boyfriend, what was his reaction?

Yeah you know I did tell him but he just said, 'you'll be alright', 'you're not pregnant', 'you're nearly due on it will be alright' but I mean how does he know, you just don't know do you. I think he was just trying to reassure me really because he was a bit scared himself, but yeah, so I told him.

I mean we talked about it, he said we were really dumb we should of you know, sorted ourselves out but you know, you do stupid things don't you.
 

Describes a pregnancy scare and how her boyfriend was reassured by searching on the internet. ...

Describes a pregnancy scare and how her boyfriend was reassured by searching on the internet. ...

Age at interview: 20
Sex: Female
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I've had my period come late and I was really worried that I was pregnant and stuff, that's happened once, yeah.

Did you tell your partner?

Yeah, I did tell my boyfriend but I think that was probably a mistake. He just got really worried. I mean I was living in England and he was in Ireland at the time and he phoned me up and I was determined not to tell him but he could just tell from my voice really, that there was something wrong.  

So I told him that my period was late and he just stressed out. He was really, really worried and ended up going on the Internet to look up information about it and called me back and said 'oh its alright you know', you know he'd worked out what it was and I'd taken the after-sex pill that month and so he said that he'd found out that one of the effects of that was that your period might be late, so that was very reassuring. My period came on like several days later and so if I hadn't of told him, we could of avoided a whole lot of stress really.

So he went on to the Internet?

Yes, he did and he researched me, well he researched it really, so that was quite sweet of him.
Many of the people we interviewed felt that the best time to start a family was their late 20s or early 30s - although one 25 year old said 'It used to be 30 but it's coming up very quickly, so maybe 35'.  

Before having a baby they usually want to have gone travelling, have had a good time without responsibilities, have sorted out their work and money, have a house and be in a stable (or married) relationship.

 

Explains why he wants to have a child when he is older and is more financially stable.

Explains why he wants to have a child when he is older and is more financially stable.

Age at interview: 19
Sex: Male
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Why not, because you don't want children?

I do want children, I will be the happiest person in the world when I do have them, but not this way, not accidentally. I haven't got a very stable job, not much money and too young for it still.

OK.

And if I do have a boy one day, it will be when I've got a stable job, you know, I'm sharing a house with my partner and I know I can raise this child up.

What are your views about that, of young fathers?

It just, just doesn't seem right, 'cos you do see, well you never know, but you know that the young child ain't gonna be raised the proper way. A child needs too much looking after; love, care, and you know. The way I look at it is like anything that I've never had, I'd like my child to have; I'd like to give him everything at once, and everything in that way.
 

At the moment it is important to avoid pregnancy, but thinks she will feel differently once she...

At the moment it is important to avoid pregnancy, but thinks she will feel differently once she...

Age at interview: 19
Sex: Female
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How important is it for you at this moment to avoid pregnancy?

Very important, because you know, I haven't done any training or degree yet and I don't want to fall behind, so you know if I got pregnant like at the end of my training or my degree then it would be fine because primarily I want a child, but not yet as it will take quite a big chunk out of my career and so I need to have like a stable relationship first.

I'm only just starting to look after myself, so I wouldn't be able to look after a child as well, so it's very important that I don't get pregnant.   

What would you do if you got pregnant?

Well I don't really know, I haven't really been in that position, because taking the pregnancy test was a very scary thing to do and I suppose I'd have an abortion, but you know I can't say that until I've been in that position and had the feelings of not knowing what to do.

But I mean it's like difficult to pre-empt it because you can't, you don't know what to do until it happens. 
Sometimes views on having children can alter after meeting a partner, some people want to spend time with their partner whilst others want children sooner. Some of those we interviewed felt if they didn't have time to enjoy their own youth and get a career, they might be resentful parents.
 

Her attitude has changed to having children now that she is in a settled relationship

Her attitude has changed to having children now that she is in a settled relationship

Age at interview: 25
Sex: Female
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My ideal has changed a few times but not particularly any age, but I wasn't really interested in children a couple of years ago, I just thought they were annoying. But I met my partner, fell in love, everything kind of fell into place.  

 

We got engaged, we're getting married and children just seem more appealing and I'm getting very broody. But I'll be about 26 by the time I have my first one. So I think it's kind of the right age, I think I'm mature enough and I've had my fun, I've had too much fun. So yes, it would be a nice age, definitely.

 

Would have an abortion if she got pregnant now. If she had a baby she would have to give up too...

Would have an abortion if she got pregnant now. If she had a baby she would have to give up too...

Age at interview: 22
Sex: Female
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If I got pregnant now I ' wouldn't have it. I'd either have an abortion, or I'd put it up for adoption. I know now I can barely look after myself, financially, and just in general, and I couldn't cope looking after a baby, and I don't want to cope with looking after a baby. I wouldn't want to have one and end up going home and living in my parents' house with a baby, because there's no quality of life, which is what's important to me. 

When I have children, I want to have children in a stable atmosphere where I can give them what they need, and at the moment I can't. I'm that much in debt, I wouldn't be able to afford to have a baby, and I wouldn't be able to ' I think I'd resent it, because I'd have to give up my degree, and I think I'd always resent it for that, and I don't want to have children in that situation.
Lesbians can consider having children after sperm donation, but many find the question of having children a difficult part of being gay.
 

Has discussed with her partner the possibility of having children with a male gay couple. (Actor)

Has discussed with her partner the possibility of having children with a male gay couple. (Actor)

Age at interview: 25
Sex: Female
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My partner and I, we have talked about having children. We've got some friends, we've got this - I won't say his name - but we've got this couple, like a male couple and one of the boys, he's an only son and he's the last one in his family so you know when he dies he's gonna be the last of his.. so if he was to have kids then we could carry on the family. So we do talk about it but whether we would actually do it. 

So have you had serious conversations about it, or has it just been 'oh well I suppose we could always,' - ?

Fairly serious but not, not serious, nobody's made a decision and we're all still young so it's not something that we have to sort now.
 

Thinks that the main setback for lesbian couples is not to be able to have children as...

Thinks that the main setback for lesbian couples is not to be able to have children as...

Age at interview: 19
Sex: Female
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Do you think you would want children?

Yeah, that's one of the most bitching things about being gay that is, that is probably. 'Coz I've always known that I've wanted kids always, I've always wanted kids and actually I want three but I want to actually have them as well, like I want, at least one of them anyway and it's really like harsh to think that anybody... You know what I'm saying, in a one night stand, someone could get pregnant and be like 'oh no darn it' and I'm just like going to be my whole life where I wish like, you know what I'm saying, I really love this person, why can't we be able to have kids

And at what age would you like to have kids?

I suppose by the time I'm like I don't know about twenty seven, coz like we always ask each other now, 'oh if you got pregnant now, would you keep it', like just by some miracle and I would say yeah coz you'd never get the chance again would you kind of thing.
In the UK women are having children at a later age and a greater number than ever before never have children. Many people decide not to have children, but there are also many who want to but have difficulty getting pregnant. 

Some said that they would ideally be in a happy stable relationship when they have children but would consider having children on their own. Some thought it was important for their to be a man in the child's life, even if he was not the biological father.

 

Would consider having a child on her own, but thinks it is important for a child to have a man in...

Would consider having a child on her own, but thinks it is important for a child to have a man in...

Age at interview: 21
Sex: Female
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So you would want children?

Yes, I would like children one day.

At what age?

I don't know, I'd like to have finished my education and I'd like to maybe have begun to have some idea about what kind of job I was going into and maybe kind of started being or be well into a career and I'd like to have met someone I want to have children with. I mean whatever age it, I don't know if it got to where it was quite late I might consider having a child by myself I don't know, although I think it's quite important for children to have a man in their life, whether it's you know their father or whatever but I think kind of...

A father figure?

Yeah a father figure even if it's not actually their father I think it's quite important. But yeah, I would want children one day.

Last reviewed January 2016.

Last updated August 2012.

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