An anxious woman holding a home pregnancy test, coping with a pregnancy scare

How to navigate a pregnancy scare

Realising your contraception has failed or noticing your period is late are moments that make your heart stop in its tracks. A pregnancy scare can leave you feeling stuck. But it’s critical to know you have options and steps to take, even before you know whether you’re pregnant or not.

In this guide, you’ll find out how to handle a pregnancy scare, what to do if your period is late, and when to take a pregnancy test. We want to stress that there are no right or wrong pathways in the situation, and knowing your options is critical.

Scroll down to learn more.

What is a pregnancy scare?

A pregnancy scare is when someone suspects they’re pregnant but doesn’t want to be.

This can be an extremely intense experience. It’s important to know that you’re not alone and everything will be okay. The key to navigating a pregnancy scare is to put your mental health first. Staying calm might seem difficult now, but navigating the situation is essential.

Remember, whatever happens, you aren’t stuck. Keep reading to learn what to do if you’ve had unprotected sex, if your contraception has failed, or if you suspect you might be pregnant.

a pregnant woman holding her belly while looking into a tablet on her bed

Steps to take during a pregnancy scare

Here’s everything you need to know about dealing with a pregnancy scare.


Step one: take a deep breath.

A pregnancy scare comes with lots of emotions and stress. Before you do anything else, breathe in and out a few times to help you calm down. This way, you can process the next few steps with a clear mind.

Consider emergency contraception

Step two: Consider emergency contraception.

There are two types of emergency contraception: the copper IUD (or copper coil) and the morning-after pill. The copper IUD is more effective than the hormonal morning-after pill, but it has to be inserted by a professional. Sometimes, the morning-after pill is easier to access, and these are still up to 95% effective when used in the correct time frame.

If you choose the morning-after pill, make sure you read the guidelines for your specific medication. Most pills are effective within a five-day window, but some must be used within three days of unprotected sex.

Examine your menstrual cycle

Step three: Examine your menstrual cycle and determine how likely a pregnancy is.

You can only get pregnant when you’re ovulating. This is when an egg is released, and there’s only a small five to six-day window for pregnancy to happen. Eggs only live 24 hours, but sperm can survive for five days.

On the average 28-day cycle, ovulation happens on approximately day 14. If you track your cycle, look at where you are. This can help you gauge how likely a pregnancy is – but remember that it’s difficult to be certain, even if you track your periods.

Confide in someone you trust

Step four: If it’s safe, speak to someone you trust.

The saying “A problem shared is a problem halved” has some truth to it. Discussing your worries with someone else will help you process your feelings, and you could even ask them to join you when taking emergency contraception or when buying a pregnancy test.

Be kind to yourself

It’s easy to be harsh to yourself, especially if you forgot contraception or didn’t realise the contraception was broken. But this isn’t fair or productive. You’re not the first one to experience a pregnancy scare, and you won’t be the last.

This happens more than you’d expect, so give yourself some grace before being harsh to yourself. In a high-stress situation, this is the last thing you need.

Act quickly

While you must be kind to yourself and not make any rash decisions, you also need to note that you must act quickly to prevent a pregnancy.

Depending on the type of emergency contraception you use, you’ll have a few days to act. Similarly, if your period is late, you’ll also need to contact your healthcare provider. Anxiety and stress might make you want to bury your head in the sand, but it’s not the time to procrastinate. Put yourself first and take the action that feels right for you.

What to do when your period is late?

A missed period is usually one of the first signs of pregnancy. So, you’ll need to take an at-home pregnancy test (more on this below) to rule this possibility out.

However, it’s important to stay calm and remember that there are other reasons that your period might be late. Period cycles range from 21 to 40 days; slight variation is normal. These are some reasons why your period might also be late:

  • Stress
  • Low or high body weight
  • PCOS
  • Birth control
  • Chronic diseases
  • Thyroid issues

Natural variations in your cycle will happen from time to time. But these factors shouldn’t cause a period to be over six weeks late.

An anxious woman holding a home pregnancy test, coping with a pregnancy scare

When should you take a pregnancy test?

If you’ve had unprotected sex, a pregnancy test on the same day won’t show if you’re pregnant or not. You’ll need to wait until your next menstrual cycle.

While some might be tempted to test on the first day of a missed period, it’s not advised. At this point in a pregnancy, you don’t have enough pregnancy hormone (hCG) built up in your urine. If you test one week after your missed period, you’ll get a more accurate week.

It’s best to take a pregnancy test with your first-morning urine. This is because the urine has not been diluted by drinking fluids.

Taking a pregnancy test after a pregnancy scare is scary. If you’re reading this, you might be looking for other answers. However, it’s paramount that you take a test and get it out of the way. PMS and early pregnancy signs are similar, and there’s only so much someone’s Reddit post can tell you. Whatever happens, you’ll be okay. But don’t put the test off!

What if you get a positive pregnancy test?

A positive pregnancy test might seem like the end of the world, but it’s not. You have several options, and there’s no right or wrong path. These include terminating the pregnancy via abortion, carrying the pregnancy, giving the baby up for adoption, and keeping the baby.

The choice is yours, but you should rely on your healthcare provider/GP as a resource. They can help you access the services you need and refer you to a support system.

The takeaway

Pregnancy scares are a difficult time, and there’s no right way to feel. However, it’s important to look after yourself through the process and take steps to prevent future scares afterwards. Your feelings are valid, and so is whatever route you choose.

Jump to more sex and relationship content here.  

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Posts

Begin typing your search term above and press enter to search. Press ESC to cancel.

Back To Top