Nearly half of the 6 million pregnancies in the U.S. each year are unplanned.1 So that feeling you have — whatever that feeling is — as you stare at your positive pregnancy test? It’s normal. Finding out you’re pregnant is such an intimate and nuanced experience, and the emotions you feel after a positive pregnancy test can be chameleon-like in their ability to change. Just know that this happens to millions of women every year. You are not alone.
A wide range of emotions
We can’t say it enough: There is no right or wrong way to feel about a positive pregnancy test. Here’s a kaleidoscopic look at the emotions you might be experiencing:
- Surprised: Many women are stunned by a positive pregnancy test and wonder if, perhaps, it’s wrong. While false positives are very rare, they are possible.
- Confused: You may be a bit perplexed as to why you’re pregnant, especially if you used contraception. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a male condom has a 13% failure rate in typical use.2
- Happy: You may be filled with unexpected joy knowing that you’re pregnant. Even if the pregnancy is unplanned, if you’re happy, let yourself be happy. In this moment, think about the many positive possibilities that lie ahead.
- Curious: You may wonder what pregnancy feels like. Perhaps the pregnancy test result explains why you’ve been feeling so tired lately?
- Panicked: This feeling could be related to myriad factors ranging from your relationship status, finances and health to your lifestyle, age, goals and dreams.
- Fear: We recognize that a positive pregnancy test may be the result of an unplanned event as much as it may be the result of a carefully planned one. You have the right to own any and every emotion you feel without guilt or shame.
Remember that you’re not alone
One of the most powerful parts of pregnancy is knowing about the legion of women who have experienced this same moment before you. No matter where your path leads, you have now joined a sisterhood who, at some point, have discovered they’re pregnant and have met that news with emotions ranging from joy to confusion to panic.
Lean on those you trust. That may be your partner, a close family member or friend. A search online can lead to hundreds of articles and essays written by and about women who have been in your shoes. And many online communities and forums exist where you can anonymously share your feelings too. You may also consider reaching out to someone whose situation, at some point, mirrored the situation you’re in now. They can likely offer insight and empathy that others may, due to life circumstances, lack.
What steps should you take next?
Once you’ve processed the fact that you’re pregnant, you may wonder what’s next. To start, make an appointment with your doctor or ob-gyn, if you have one. If you don’t have one, ask for recommendations from friends, family members or even close neighbors for doctors in the area. An online search for a nearby doctor could be helpful as well.
Once you choose your next steps, your healthcare provider can provide the resources you need. But perhaps most importantly, in these early minutes, hours and days, be gentle with your emotions. They may be powerful, nonsensical or nonexistent. (Feeling nothing is OK, too.) Recognize them. Sit with them. Somewhere in all of time, another woman has felt this way before. Find comfort in that, and know that she got through it, as will you.
- Special tabulations of data from Finer LB and Zolna MR, Declines in unintended pregnancy in the United States, 2008-2011, “New England Journal of Medicine,” 2016, 374(9):843-852, doi:10.1056/NEJMsa1506575.
- Contraception, last reviewed August 13, 2020, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, https://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/contraception/index.htm.